Sunday, 22 January 2017

Oh death, where is thy sting?

19:05:00 Posted by Jill Reidy Red Snapper Photography , , , , , , , , No comments
“Oh death, where is thy sting?”

I’m sure when this line first appeared in the bible (Corinthians 15.55, if anyone wants to check) it didn’t expect to raise riotous laughter. Before I’m accused of being cold hearted or flippant, let me elaborate. 

Many years ago, we were visiting my mum and dad with our three young children, along with my brother and his wife and their three offspring.  Six over excited children under seven in an enclosed space was a recipe for disaster.  There were drinks being spilt, toys broken, mouths yelling – it was absolute chaos.  My mum was calmly dealing with all disasters in a systematic manner, but my dad (who turned out to be the greatest granddad on earth once the kids reached about eight) was not enjoying it very much.  He’d not been well and really couldn’t stand too much mayhem.  Suddenly his voice rung out above the clatter,  

“Oh death, where is thy sting?!”

There was a short, stunned silence, whilst tiny hands stopped pouring drinks on the floor and wrestling over the Fisher Price garage, and tiny heads turned towards granddad, their mouths agape.  My dad looked a bit like he’d even shocked himself.  The adults swivelled their astonished eyes between granddad and each other.  One of us (I can’t remember who) started to snigger.   Within seconds, the room was in uproar.  We clutched our sides and roared with laughter, grandma stopped mopping for a moment and, after a slightly worried glance at granddad, allowed herself a short but unmistakeable guffaw.  The children caught the mood and joined in, without a clue what they were laughing about.  My dad looked indignant, which of course, caused even more hilarity.  Eventually, he grinned, shook his head and went upstairs for a lie down. Chaos resumed.

The husband was the one who found this funnier than anybody else.  The rest of us were pretty used to my dad and his dramatic outbursts.   Ever since that day, we’ve realised that any situation that has got out of control and unacceptable can only benefit from one of us shouting those famous words,

 “Oh death, where is thy sting?!”

The culprits at my dad's 60th birthday - singing a song I'd written to celebrate

Despite treating that quote with unbelievable irreverence, I do know death is no laughing matter.  I’ve grieved over grandparents and uncles, and a very close friend who we’d known for over twenty five years.  His wife, Mary is one of my dearest friends.  Our children grew up with their children and they are still all mates today, but sadly George died prematurely nine years ago.  He was the husband’s closest friend and we were both devastated.  However, this didn’t stop me making a cringe worthy remark only a few days after George’s funeral.  I was with Mary, chatting and laughing about George’s life and funny sayings, when there was a knock at the door.  Mary answered and came back into the room with a sombre looking man in a black suit, who she introduced as the funeral director.  We exchanged a handshake, and he turned back to Mary.  Very seriously he informed her he had brought George’s ashes, which were in an urn inside a carrier bag on the floor next to him.  With some effort, he lifted the bag and passed it to Mary, with the words, “Careful, it’s really heavy.”

Now before I tell you what came out of my mouth without a moment’s hesitation, I must first paint a picture of our lovely friend.  George was the biggest joker out there.  He was from Glasgow with a typical Glaswegian’s sense of humour (and language) and was a great one for teasing and winding people up.  Not only was George a big joker, he was also physically a pretty big guy, and one of his favourite sayings was, “I’m a fat b*****d, me,” always with a loud laugh and a poke at his stomach.  Each week he told us without a hint of irony, “The big diet starts tomorrow.”   Each week, we’d nod and know it would never happen.

So when the funeral director told Mary to be careful as George’s ashes exchanged hands, I heard myself say, “Well, he always was a fat b*****d.”

There was a stunned silence.  Everything seemed to go into slow motion.  The funeral director turned towards me with a look that combined horror with supreme distaste.  Mary clutched the urn and fixed her gaze on the floor and I wondered what on earth had possessed me.  Nobody said a word.  Mary ushered the man towards the door, whilst I contemplated jumping through the window.  As the front door closed I heard a stifled laugh. Mary burst into the room, grabbed me and hugged me close.   It seemed my rapidly composed apology was redundant.  She shook with laughter and could hardly speak, “Oh my God, Jill,” she said in her thick Glaswegian accent, “George would have LOVED that!”

I still cringe when I recollect what I said but I think Mary was right.  George would have loved the joke - and even more so my discomfort having said it.  I think about him every day and although I don’t believe in ghosts, a little part of me would like to believe it was George who possessed me that time I shocked the funeral director.

Dave and George - best mates



Dylan Thomas' poem is a favourite of mine, even more so as I get older.


Do not go gentle into that good night

Dylan Thomas, 1914 - 1953

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


Thanks for reading      Jill 


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