It was cool, clear and bright when I set out on the road to Fuengirola at nine thirty this morning, and that made for an enjoyable journey. I felt that I should arrive with plenty of time to spare, preferably ahead of the bereaved family. I was sitting outside the crematorium café drinking an Americano when they arrived, in the same place where I sat to meet and greet them on Thursday last. There were just five of them at such short notice flying out from Britain for the funeral. I had plenty of time to brief them before their Costa friends started arriving.
About twenty minutes before time, with the chapel prepared, the funeral attendants came to complete the necessary formalities. Here, the chief mourner has to sign official documents to authorise cremation, unlike in Britain, where this is done by the funeral director on behalf of the family. I was able to help as an intermediary by explaining what was being asked and found I had confidence in speaking Spanish in this context which I didn't have when I last did a funeral here two years ago. The church attendant remarked on my effort. I think he may have been glad not to have to struggle with his limited English.
Forty mourners were present, mostly older generation expats, many of them British Legion members. I led the coffin into chapel from a rear corridor to an enclosure before the altar, where floral tributes were laid. The family didn't want to sing hymns, so they selected four songs from 'the soundtrack of life together' to suit what they needed to say about the deceased. Her son and her eldest granddaughter gave moving tributes and I bound their contribution together with scripture readings and prayers. After the committal the congregation took their leave, and once the chapel was empty, the attendants came in and moved the coffin to an enclosed lift platform on the opposite side of the chapel. The same basic C of E funeral ritual but adapted to this context. Familar texts in an unfamiliar place.
I wondered if I might see anyone I knew in the congregation, as many were from La Cala or Calahonda, but I didn't. So as they began to disperse to go to the reception, I took my leave of the family, having given them of my best as a passing stranger in sad circumstances. Such is the nature of some aspects of Christian ministry today, where there's no chance of follow through, or bond pastorally with people, given that transience in relationships is a feature of life in a such mobile society.
I phoned Bill Oliver, former church warden and congregation member in the St Andrew's chaplaincy, then went to meet him at the Oasis Beach Club, El Faro, for a drink and catch-up chat. It's two years since we last met. He then invited me to his house nearby, where he cooked lunch, while we continued to catch each other up on our lives. His kids are now away at University in the USA. No more school runs for him! It was good to spend time with him again, and it was gone five by the time I got back to Rincon.
Being ready and prepared for the service at Velez Malaga tomorrow, I thought about watching Spanish TV for the exercise, then I found that RNE Clasico was relaying the BBC Last Night of the Proms radio broadcast. It's a comfortably warm evening, with a cool breeze, and I can enjoy the Spanish voice in between performances. What a treat!