Along with buying greetings cards in advance of needing them, I thought that using a window wiper on the shower door was a sure and immovable sign of being a Grown Up.
They still are useful harbingers, I suppose, but I have re-advised my parameters of adulthood of late. The surest and starkest acolyte of maturing, is, I have come to realise, when your funeral count ups to a steady one or two a year.
There was a witheringly sad one on a biting March day and there is another this Friday, a farewell to an old friend who, wearied and weak, lost her life-draining struggle with Cystic Fibrosis last Wednesday. Milly Douglas-Pennant was the bravest girl I have ever met. The last time I saw her was when I was fourteen and even then, she struck everyone who met her as a special person. Forever on IV, drinking strengthening chocolate milkshakes and hot chocolate by the gallon, hating sports and loving art. I remember, crystal clear, bunking off from school, lying in her hammock and laughing at everything – until her mum got a call from a teacher and our bubble was unceremoniously burst.
Death is our society’s last taboo. Unlike sex – which is everywhere now, selling us things we don’t need – death is something we still fail to talk about openly and candidly much of the time. We only came to mourn and hold death in such sepulchred fear in the past 200 years or so – back when sex was unmentionable in certain circles, death was quotidien and matter-of-fact. Perhaps some more bestial, exhausting outpouring of emotion in the event of, and a frankness in the run up to losing a life would help us all approach the taboo in more human, real and fearless terms. As they do in India. Then again, we deal with things as best we can – and no matter how many funerals I find myself shuffling greyly to, they never get any easier.
In any case, I doubt that turning our consciences’ clocks back a couple of centuries and untabooing the facts would have made any difference to tearful eyes on that bitter day in March and to those this Friday ahead.