Poetry – literary work in which the expression of feelings and ideas is given intensity by the use of distinctive style and rhythm
I don’t think of the readings on my website Funerals -Today as strictly poetry, but happily others do. These readings are mostly (by my reckoning) lyrical words written to recite at funerals and memorial services.
Since I started to write funeral readings eight years ago, I noticed something weird and wonderful often happens… it seems that the synchronicity of life produces patterns whereby some readings are well used at one moment, while others that were used a year ago feel and even sound all wrong. There are definite moments of popularity and preference. Is it fashion? The season? Zeitgeist?
Over the last three months it seems that a lot of strong, elderly ladies have passed away. Summer is not a season for many people to die, but this year there have been many deaths, and nearly all of them have been elderly, powerful ladies who seemed to be at the centre of extended families. And so the most widely used reading on the Funerals-Today website is one called The Matriarch. The families I served at funerals chose this reading and it has been accepted without question. This happened so often, I started to find it a little uncanny… so when I went to visit one family, without a copy of the reading on me – thinking that the lady concerned might have been too young to have been described as a matriarch – the family carefully explained the reading they wanted, an explanation so specific that I had to get out my iphone, and recite The Matriarch to them; they responded saying that these were exactly the words they wanted, as if they had written them themselves. Apparently ‘Synchronicity’ is all about events that are more connected by meaning than cause. Suddenly things happen that fall into patterns that appear at very particular moments in life.
Here are three pictures of my fabulous maternal grandmother, with her kids. Her name was Annie Victoria Schoental (later Marks) born November 20, 1887, died June 1985 – 30 years ago.
She was the matriarch of matriarchs – brilliant, beautiful, brave and authoritarian. She went out to work to support her three children when her husband failed her, selling insurance door to door and playing the piano for silent movies. I think The Matriarch reading is dedicated to her… and some might even call it poetry.
Ramadan has been quite tough for the Islamic community in the Northern hemisphere this year. In the further regions of the Scandinavian countries some people fast for 23 hours. In Brighton today the sun rose at 11 minutes past 5 and will set at 3 minutes past nine. That’s a long time to fast on an on-going basis, and on some days it was longer. When I went to a wonderful Ramadan dinner at the beginning of the month the sun set at around 20 past nine, and I was very aware of how long the fast had gone on for. A group of people from diverse faith backgrounds gathered at The Dialogue Society and we talked about fasting and its effects;the Turkish muslim community both hosting and attending this wonderful evening explained that fasting was not so difficult for those in the habit of doing it, but it did give them an opportunity to think about people elsewhere who don’t know where the next meal is coming from, and empathise with the world’s poor and starving, of which there are many.
Experience is a great educator. I’ve been having a lot of weird problems with my hands of late. The pain taught me that people who lose a hand, or an arm, or suffer serious rheumatic problems have a dreadful time. We take our limbs for granted, but when they play up and make simple things like doing up a shoelace or buttoning up a shirt a challenge, ones thoughts immediately turn to the old, frail and disabled who must contend with such problems on a permanent basis, and that is humbling.
I realise that I feel the same way about my home. Ever since I was young, and had a little control over the space I occupied, I have always wanted to honour the space I was given, knowing that it was just blessed luck that allowed me to have a roof over my head. My house is a celebration of what a home is about, and probably has far too much stuff in it, but it is very, very loved. It’s loved because the alternative is unbearable. Homeless people are increasingly visible in Brighton and Hove since the Tories came to power. I know that so many of my friends and associates have met up with this problem on a daily basis, either through circumstance or choice, and feel increasingly helpless. Some have sought to find homes for those encamped on their doorstep, others have tried to feed the homeless. It is a shameful indictment of our society that this tragic situation has become so prevalent. The best and most compassionate words written about homelessness in Brighton come from Andy Winter, Chief Executive of Brighton and Hove Housing Trust, a man with extraordinary compassion and insight, who has made a massive difference to this City, and the lives of many, many people. He is unique. You can find his amazing blog… as follows.