There we are in an elegant Northern Italian restaurant on the water at The Spit in Sydney, two old school friends who have known each other for over 50 years. Convent girls trained by nuns in long black habits. We talk of many things – mostly about my friend’s new Italian lover who is maybe 20 years younger than she although it makes her glow like she was 20 years younger.
It might have been miserable me that turned it, but we start to ponder funerals; those we have been to and then arranging our own.
Unlike me who finds these topics and everything related to them depressing, dreading the inevitable event that precedes the funeral, my friend elaborates her happy view. (Everything is happy with her since the advent of the dishy Italian.) A life must be celebrated; grand music must be played and sung by an actual small orchestra and choir; the things that weren’t said in life must be said now (presumably only the flattering things); people must be dressed in stylish black; a horse drawn carriage should carry the coffin; yellow roses are everywhere.
We agree that the Catholic Church does these rituals well. I think she still believes and although I have long since lapsed I might return for the send off pomp.
I am charged with arranging her final rite of passage – literally – and I express concern that not many people will come. She instructs me to gather them from the highways and byways. “The people” can follow the coffin and then have a great feed. We are attracted to the notion of an anonymous crowd. The homeless shelter is a resource that appeals but then the tailor may need to be involved if the elegant black theme is to be consistent.
The very thought of organising it all is exhausting. Can funerals become more demanding than weddings in their detail? We solve the problem. We invent a whole new job category, The Funeral Planner. Think of all those young people doing courses in public relations and event planning fantasising a future of champagne and celebrities. We know life isn’t really like that and this new line of work could at least supply them a steady clientele.