Can there be such a thing as a ‘good funeral?’ I think so. Of course we are sad at the passing of our loved one, our friend. Of course there are regrets, angers, disappointments. But that should not take away from the dignified marking of a person’s sad passing. George Scarrott’s funeral last Friday, the showman from Royal Wootton Bassett, was overwhelmingly sad. Here was a man in the prime of his life, a great local character, a wonderful father and husband. Taken away from us. And for what possible reason? Yet the outstanding priest in St Bartholomew’s, the Rev Canon Thomas Woodhouse exceeded his own very high standards in a most moving service, remembering and celebrating George’s wonderful life. Seven hundred or so of his friends were at the service – many of them fellow travelling showmen from all over the area. Royal Wootton Bassett is a sadder place without him; yet his funeral was an important moment of passage through this transitory life.
Then I was privileged to be invited to Lady Thatcher’s very grand funeral in St Paul’s Cathedral. It was right that we should have commemorated the life of this great lady with all due national honour; with the pomp and ceremony which she deserved. Her service to the nation was second to none. It was not really a sad occasion. She was a very old lady, and had been suffering terribly in recent years. She missed the great love of her life and staunch ally, Denis, greatly, and in some ways her death was a blessed release. We were mourning her, of course. But not in a sad way.
It was much more about commemorating the great contribution she had made in her long life to Britain; and in some ways it was about recognising the kind of Britain she tried to leave behind her, and to accept the baton which she was passing to the next generation. Mr Woodhouse read one of my favourite Bible readings at George’s funeral. It’s from Ecclesiastes: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.
“A time to be born, and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to pluck up...
“A time to weep and a time to laugh.... A time to keep silence, and a time to speak; “A time to love and a time to hate; a time of war and a time of peace.”
There can be such a thing as a ‘good funeral’ and I am glad to have been able to attend two this week.