A Funeral Reading for a Football Fan

For the past year I have been nearly killing myself trying to write a funeral reading for one who loves football. It has been truly tough. I wrote one that was called ‘How He Loved the Game” and it was so spectacularly bad that I couldn’t even bring myself to paste it into the Funerals Today website. If anybody asked for a funeral reading for a football fan, I would pull it out and then apologise… for the twit who might have written such a gruesome little thing. I think one family used it for their grandad, in desperation, because there wasn’t anything else in existence. Then the other day, some crazy words started tinkling in my brain, and it took off. I gave it a shove and a kick, and the following reading for a dear departed footer fan unfolded:

A Fantastic Football Fan

What’s with this game
That made you feel so high?
Was it your team
Your mates
The offside trap
And then that lousy shoot-out
Nearly made you cry?

What’s with this ball
That they could kick so high?
It meant the world
To you and them, so why?

It’s all about expecting
And then throwing in
It’s all about the winning
But not whining – not giving-in
The square, the short and long ball
The pals, solid as a rock
The unexpected tackle
Sudden shock

You felt the roar
And saw the lucky chip
The crossbar stopped the goal
That you were willing in

And in the end
At injury time
When you went deep and deeper
You didn’t find the goal
Or spot the sweeper

Then at the very end
When they were on their knees
You still walked tall
And like your mates
You claimed to take it all…
The penalty and the strike, your way
The win that set your heart aflame
The game, the pitch, the offside rule
The love that took your heart
Your final match at home — your ball.

The Believers Dinner Party Game

When newspapers run out of ideas to shove in their ‘lifestyle’ pages, they like to resort to dinner party games, and one of the favourites is to ask somebody — a passing fly, bat or a so-called celeb – who they would invite to their dinner party.

I was thinking about this one for myself and according to the rules of this game, you have five guests, and they can be alive or dead, so I went for a mixture of the two. I started out with Noel Coward, because of his elegant use of language, music, and wit. A beautiful and fascinating contrast, with mastery of words in a different way would be Carol Ann Duffy, our great poet laureate, whose compassion and humanity are in a class of their own. The late John O’Donohue, is undoubtedly the next one to be seated at the table; his writing, spirituality and understanding of beauty are a constant source of inspiration to me. Caroline Lucas has to be there, because she is of this world, right now. But choosing the last guest was tricky, because I want lots of people at the table – particularly all sorts of dead and delightful souls — my sister Professor Julia Briggs, Jane Austen, Bill Evans and Elizabeth Kubler Ross, to name but a few. In the end I chose Kubler Ross.

Noel Coward

Carol Ann Duffy

So why do I call this the Believers Dinner Party Game? Because all these people knew or know about belief in one way or another. The son of a piano salesman, Noel Coward only went to school for a year or two but was the epitome of literary creativity and sophistication, he said “I believe in doing what I can, in crying when I must, and in laughing when I choose”. Duffy decided to be a poet when she was 14. Apparently, John O’Donohue became famous because he believed “we should all transform our fear of death – and that would enable us to fear little else.” Caroline Lucas and I share the same beliefs when it comes to the survival of planet, and she would be a good thing at such an eclectic gathering. The great Elizabeth Kubler Ross just knew so much about life and death and lived it so courageously. She made ground-breaking changes to the way we deal with death in the West. I know this from experience, having witnessed my father’s death as a child, when nobody was allowed the dignity of knowing that they were going to die… and then, in contrast, just over 10 years ago, watching my sister die so beautifully, so elegantly and so spiritually prepared, thanks to the legacy Kubler Ross.

Elizabeth Kubler Ross

Caroline Lucas

John O’Donohue