As I was preparing the service sheets to take with me for today's funeral, I was surprised to have a phone call requesting another funeral service tomorrow, here in Nerja for someone who had died overnight. Such a short turnover time is still commonplace in Spain, unless delay is necessitated by mourners having to travel great distances. Before I left for todays's service at Vélez-Malaga, accompanied by churchwarden Judith, I was able to arrange a rendezvous to meet members of the bereaved family, although it meant giving my apologies for being unable to accept today's after-service lunch invitation up in the mountain village of Periana. The widow was very understanding.
Vélez-Malaga Thanatorium is set on the edge of the town, next to the public cemetery, for which there is a large old chapel, alongside a modern building containing bereavement services administrative offices, a bar and reception area, with the chapel downstairs in a cool and quiet corner. Both share the same parking area. It must be a nightmare when there's a burial and cremation service running at the same time, though this was not the case today. About thirty people attended, including a group of men who'd worked on building the house the deceased had been renovating and only move into two months ago. As they were Spanish only speakers I read some prayers in Spanish, hoping I'd be understood, unsure how it would sound to Andalucian ears. It all went according to plan, and after a recuperative coffee in the bar, we were on our way back to Nerja for lunch, and preparation of tomorrow's funeral.
The widower and his two grown up sons came to meet with me at Church House. This was easier that it would have been for me to find their house out in the campo, up the Chillar valley in the Sierra Almijara behind Nerja. The family had been living in Nerja for 24 years, involved in rental and property sales. It turned out that they had even been involved in selling Church House to the parish a decade ago. After half a hour's conversation, I had enough to enable me to work on service preparation, and they left me to go an visit the Thanatorium to complete arrangements there. It's another co-incidence that last time I did a spell of locum duty here I was told not to expect any funerals and ended up with two, and it's the same on this occasion. Well, offering oneself for locum duty is a matter of being ready for anything, or nothing at all apart from routine assignments. That's what makes life in retirement perpetually interesting.
Today is meant to be a fiesta, but to me it all seemed rather quiet. I wasn't aware of anything special happening. Some though not all the shops were closed. Banks were closed. I suspect the fiesta of Saints Peter and Paul next weekend will be more eventful, as it marks the start of the Spanish school holidays.