The Funeral

[A Story of Fiction]

I’m not a big fan of funerals. Who is? I hate going to them really. It’s one thing to go to the funeral of someone who’s lived for 90 years and died peacefully in their sleep, because you know they had a good innings. But when you go to your high school friend’s funeral and you’re only 31, then it sucks big time.

I got the call last Friday. My buddy Jack had died of cancer. Cancer! He was 32. Who dies of cancer at 32? Skin cancer. He was a fake-and-bake guy. Shit that’s sad. “Jack died this morning.” Carly said to me. “He was brave at the end but couldn’t make it.” There was a silence and I didn’t know what to say. I thought of Carly’s kind face at the other end. “Anyway, the funeral’s on Thursday at 1pm at the Greaves Funeral Home. Do you think you’ll be able to make it?”

“Yeah. I’ll be there.”

I put the phone down and covered my mouth and nose with both hands. My eyes wandered around looking for something bright to catch my eye. But all I found were the beige walls of my office. What the hell! Jack was in my group of buddies at high school, but we had gone separate ways and only saw each other a couple of times a year when the whole gang got together for poker or a night out. Geez. 32 and cancer. He’d been in for tests, and had a melanoma removed, but I never thought it would be that serious. It was just a friggin’ mole. He was a pretty fit guy. No cover boy, but still… he snowboarded and worked out a bit. Who dies of cancer at 32? Really? Am I missing something, or is 32 way too young to die? And it all happened so goddamn quickly. He cancelled on us for the last poker night because he wasn’t feeling well, but I didn’t think he would die. Shit I wish I’d kept in better contact with him now. You take for granted that we’ll all live forever when you’re in your 30s. He never even finished his degree.

The snow swirled around the white landscape that existed outside my slim office window. White and cold. I gazed out the window, but wasn’t inspired. Maybe a coffee would lift my spirits… at least my heart rate. I stood motionless in front of the open refrigerator looking at the containers with lunch and the ketchup, and the gallon of milk in the back. My eyes focused on the pink 2% label and I grabbed at the handle. I poured milk into my cup and then the hot coffee from the pot. I could smell it had been sitting for half an hour or so. The freshness had gone. But it was still caffeine.

I trudged back to my office, and caught my foot on the carpet, spilling a few drops. No one would notice a few extra brown flecks in a brown-flecked carpet.

I sat back at my beige desk, and glared at the beige wall in front of me. I lived in a world of beige. I don’t know what problem management has with colour. Who bloody dies at 32?

I opened Internet Explorer and Googled “Life Expectancy”. The top link was a government site and I clicked on it. Half way down the page I read:
Life expectancy: 77.6 years.

I stared at the screen, and the numbers glowed at me. I shut my eyes and the numbers 77.6 were imprinted on the back of my retinas. 77.6 years seemed a reasonable age to die at. I pulled out the calculator, and punched the keys with my middle finger. That would make my death day August 15th, 2052. 2052 is a long way off. I sipped at my coffee, and wiped away the damp ring from the desk.

2052. That still gives me time.

—– § —–

The air was stiff as it rushed into my nostrils. I hate winter. What a day to be buried. I pulled up into the church parking lot and made my way to the door.

“Thirty friggin two.” I mumbled under my breath, the cold air puffing in front of me.

I thought I was early, but as I opened the door and looked in the church was already three-quarters full. He must have had a lot of friends. Geez, I wonder how many would turn out for my funeral.

I looked for a familiar face but saw none. I guess I really didn’t know him that well after all. There had to be one of the gang around here… one of the poker buddies. Where’s Carly? Tall and blonde, she’d be easy to spot. Hmm. A lot of black hats. Not so easy. I wanted to call out some of my friends’ names and watch the faces turn towards me. I didn’t really want to sit next to someone I didn’t know. Not at a funeral.

For a moment I was lost. What do I do? Then I felt a warm hand on my shoulder. I turned to see Carly’s tired face.

“Hi.” The edges of my lips turned up the shadow of a smile.


“Can I sit with you?”


“Thanks. I wasn’t sure I’d find someone here I knew.”

We sat down. We didn’t speak to each other. What do I say to Jack’s ex-girlfriend? Well, not the immediate ex. An ex from a few years ago. But they dated for two years. Anyway, it’s a little awkward.

I thought about Jack, and how he played poker. He only bet on good hands. He was the easiest guy to read at the table, and the easiest to bluff. But he was a good guy. Why didn’t I see him more often? What did he do when he wasn’t with his old school buddies? What did he do that he had so many friends? What am I doing? What am I doing?

There was a sudden noise from all sides. I looked up and a man dressed in black robes was tapping the microphone. That’s annoying. They should check the audio system before people arrive, not tap it in their ears! Carly grabbed my hand from my lap and squeezed it, pressing my knuckles together. I always liked Carly. She’s one of those girls who always makes you feel good.

The man at the front began to talk. I zoned out. I couldn’t help but think about Jack being only 32. I’ll be 32 in 10 months. If I only had a year to live what would I do? What would I be doing now? I’m not married. I don’t even have a girlfriend. At least I’ve got a house I’m paying off, but what’s the good of that if I die in a year?

I’ve always wanted to travel the world, or at least chunks of Europe. See the Ukraine and Scotland where my family came from; drive a Porsche; own a yacht; see the Pyramids in Egypt. God there’s so much to do! What am I doing? I’m rotting. I’m rotting at my crappy, beige job. My beige cell. I’m rotting in front of the television every night. I’m rotting at the pub. I’m rotting and getting fatter and slower and tireder. I need a new life. I need energy. I need hobbies. I need meaning! I need…

Carly squeezed my hand, “What are you whispering?” She turned to me.
“Oh. Sorry. I was thinking.”

“What were you thinking about?” She whispered back.

“My life.” I glanced over and looked into her glistening eyes.

The man in the black robes invited family members and a couple of friends to give their version of Jack’s life. Great guy. Loved the outdoors. Smart. Good looking. Never did wrong. Died a Saint. All the usual stuff. We’ll all miss him.

What are they going to say at my funeral? Had lots of dreams. Lots of good intentions. Wanted the world. Missed the boat. Missed the friggin’ boat! But we’ll all miss him just the same. My life is a bunch of bullshit. What am I contributing to the world other than methane and landfill? It’s time I started doing what I was put on this Earth to do. I can’t rot anymore! For my sake and the sake of mankind.

—– § —–

Everyone stood as the casket was carried out. Six men in dark suits. I recognized two of them. Everyone watched as it floated past them. Black hats fluttered. White tissues dabbed eyes and noses. The doors opened and the draught rushed into the church, wrapping itself around my ankles.
As people began to file out I edged into the aisle, with Carly still holding my hand. Nothing would ever happen between us, so it was okay that she held my hand. We walked towards the big wooden doors, shoulder to shoulder with strangers. Strangers brought together by a tragedy. But from every tragedy comes good.

I shuffled to the doors and felt the cold slap me in the face. It had to be minus thirty. I looked up and saw nothing but grey.

It was a great day to be alive.

[A Story of Fiction]

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