It’s okay to laugh to toast the de­parted

The Northern Advocate - - Opinion - Roger Moroney roger.moroney@hbto­day.co.nz

Laugh­ter at funer­als. I ap­plaud it. While for some it may seem in­ap­pro­pri­ate for laugh­ter and smiles I em­brace the shift to­ward the whole ideal of “cel­e­brat­ing” the life of some­one rather than gloomily mourn­ing it.

Which does not mean there will be no tears, be­cause as those fun days are re­called the voices of those de­liv­er­ing the mem­o­ries will of­ten shud­der and break.

Which is nat­u­ral and equally wel­comed, be­cause as a cel­e­brant once said tears can be a sign of strength — of the emo­tions and de­vo­tions pos­sessed and cher­ished by peo­ple.

I have been to many funer­als and I have sensed this shift to stag­ing a cel­e­bra­tion where laugh­ter and grins set the scene, and one’s strength, for that fi­nal de­par­ture from the chapel or wher­ever.

When an old biker chum died we waited for about eight min­utes af­ter the sched­uled start time for his ser­vice . . . some glances at watches as well as at the fu­neral di­rec­tor folk who did not seem too un­set­tled.

Then he was brought in, and the open­ing line from the chirpy cel­e­brant was that he’d al­ways said he’d be late for his own fu­neral.

The ser­vice be­gan with a grand round of laugh­ter, and it wrapped up that way also as he was taken out to some crazy tune.

Be­cause that was the way he wanted it.

At an­other ser­vice I at­tended the chap who had bat­tled ill­ness for months be­fore leav­ing this thing we call the mor­tal coil ac­tu­ally spoke.

He’d recorded a mes­sage to say we should wrap this up as quickly as pos­si­ble and head off for the drinks his fam­ily had sorted for later.

At an­other, the at-rest dad’s son told of how he en­ter­tained them as kids with farts . . . and pro­ceeded to ver­bally run through a se­lec­tion of his fa­ther’s favourite “tunes”.

Again, laugh­ter and nod­ded ac­knowl­edge­ment that that was what our late chum had wanted to be told.

Last week I joined sev­eral hun­dred peo­ple to cel­e­brate the life of a truly re­mark­able and good man.

I’d known Phil Lowrey since he first played for Napier City Rovers in 1987, be­fore he took a break out of town the re­joined the club in 1992.

And they en­joyed a golden reign and Phil, who was a fine and fair player, was part of it all.

Ev­ery time I en­coun­tered him he pro­duced a smile. And when he broke into a smile it was in­fec­tious.

He had been bat­tling a dread­ful ill­ness for a cou­ple of years but right up to the end was more in­ter­ested in how his vis­i­tors were get­ting on. Self-pity did not ex­ist in Phil’s hand­book.

And as his brother James put it, he never lost his wit and hu­mour.

Which is what his good mate Danny also un­der­lined dur­ing an ad­dress which at times brought the house down with laugh­ter.

He’d glance at Phil’s cas­ket and roll out an­other yarn for a mate who loved to laugh, dance (badly) and em­brace all that was good about life.

Phil’s wife also drew laughs with di­rect-from-the-heart sto­ries of their life to­gether, it was as cheer­ful as it was oc­ca­sion­ally emo­tional . . . and their daugh­ters took the same ap­proach . . . it was about the good times and the great times.

It was all how it had to be, and the way Phil wanted it to be.

As the cel­e­brant so ac­cu­rately pointed out, his was a jour­ney through life with three ‘F’ in­gre­di­ents. Fun, fam­ily and foot­ball.

It was a wor­thy cel­e­bra­tion of a good man’s life, and that is how these oc­ca­sions best flow.

Good re­mem­brance of good times, and it was clear from the big turn-out that Phil touched a lot of peo­ple.

And he left them smil­ing.

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