The national funeral of Baroness Thatcher (whatever your view) – a spectacular experience of remembrance, theatre and private reflection.
Planned with the complicated combination of state protocol and private wishes, Baroness Thatcher’s funeral displays the difficult balance between the expected ritual and show for all and the family space for grief, words, music and faith. The death and funeral of a public figure however is, in truth, no different from the death and funeral of a private citizen – just the scale maybe, perhaps the complexity and variety, the diversity. Some people die without anyone left or anyone remembering them. Some people die with the whole world remembering them.
Albert Vaughan, a Second World War veteran with 12 years of service as a marine and with 6 medals to his name, died in a care home in Tamworth. Albert had outlived his children and care workers were concerned that only 6 people would attend his funeral. So, they launched a Facebook campaign. The response was extraordinary. Hundreds attended including military veterans who carried his coffin.
The contrast between each of these funerals appears stark, but each shares more than divides them. Loneliness and isolation exist for public figures, just as forgotten achievements are not isolated to the private forgotten soldier. What binds them together is the need to be remembered, the need to have some respect and space, some ritual, some forgiveness, some thanks for a life lived, some acknowledgement, some way of passing on.
We shy away from planning ahead. But for those that do, the rest of us can perhaps admire their foresight. So, why not plan your own state funeral? You can have whatever you want. 21 gun salute? Horse drawn carriage? TV coverage? Or perhaps something a little more modest to commit to before we disappear like Mrs Thatcher or Albert Vaughan.
Here’s a starter list then (because I will forget to do it like everyone else)…..I would like….
- Enough people to attend who on balance think I was a good guy rather than a bad one
- That what I did in life wont hurt anyone in death
- My music choices make people smile – Young Hearts, Run Free…
- Some room for sadness as well as celebration – but mostly celebration
- People to walk away after and think ‘right, that’s made me think, better get on with that now, not much time left’
- To have left enough money behind the bar for afterwards so everyone needs to get a taxi home
- People I love to be looked after
- Spirit, solemnity and faith to be balanced by jokes and humour
- Some nice words but some nice deeds to follow – including loads of cash raised for charity, a gift in my will, and definitely no flowers
- My net end of life outcome would be better than if I hadn’t been around – and finally…….that the funeral procession is 15 minutes late….I always was in life …