Tuesday, 25 June 2013

More rites of passage

I made the fifteen minute from Church House down to the Thanatorium de Nerja in good time for this morning's funeral service. Since I was last here the building housing Nerja's local funeral service, located just outside the public cemetery has had a recent make-over.

In the foreground is the old cemetery building, emptied of furniture, save for a long low table on which a coffin may be placed for public viewing, with a crucifix on the wall above it. It represents the traditional convention for people to pay their respects to the departed before burial in the cemetery close by. Behind this, enclosed by a posh modern fence, is another building, recently renovated. The fence has been constructed with a gate opening into the back wall of the old building. This suggests a plan to demolish the old building, stalled due to non-communication between council departments not expecting to relate to each other. (I must go back and take a photo of that gate that leads to nowhere.)

On the ground floor of the renovated building is the usual marbled reception area and a light airy chapel that seats about three dozen people, perhaps reflecting the numbers expected to turn up for a funeral service at relatively short notice, as is still customary here. Indeed, the chapel was just full, and it wasn't much more than 48 hours since the woman died. What I'd not expected to find when I arrived, was that her coffin wasn't closed, as is usual these days, but open for all arriving to see the departed and pay their respects. The widowed husband and children expressed their grief openly. Others arriving had to figure out how to relate to a situation less than usual. 

Having received the immediate family's guidance yesterday, I was well prepared to perform the funeral office for this occasion. The difficult part came at the end when the family and rest of the congregation had to leave the chapel, so the funeral attendants could close and remove the coffin without drama. From my point of view, it all happened as intended. Close family went with the coffin to a cremation in private with no further religious ceremony at Almu├▒├ęcar Thanatorium. I couldn't invite myself along, but I'd have liked to see what happens, if only to know what to advise bereaved people, should a situation like this ever arise again.

I got the impression that the conscientious care and service offered by funeral companies to bereaved families here is much the same as it is in the U.K. apart from the conventional timescale between death and disposal, which is that much shorter than in the U.K. I supect it has everything to do with expectation whether at the level of the organising community or family. It says something about the different ways of dealing with the pain of bereavement that persist between Britain and Spain.

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