Monday, May 17, 2010

The first of May

Completely unseasonal for us - but I went to a funeral on Friday and gave this as a reading:

The first of May! There is a merry freshness in the sound, calling to our minds a thousand thoughts of all that is pleasant in nature and beautiful in her most delightful form. What man is there, over whose mind a bright spring morning does not exercise a magic influence - carrying him back to the days of his childish sports, and conjuring up before him the old green field with its gently-waving trees, where the birds sang as he has never heard them since - where the butterfly fluttered far more gaily than he ever sees him now, in all his ramblings - where the sky seemed bluer, and the sun shone more brightly - where the air blew more freshly over greener grass, and sweeter-smelling flowers - where everything wore a richer and more brilliant hue than it is ever dressed in now! Such are the deep feelings of childhood, and such are the impressions which every lovely object stamps upon its heart! The hardy traveller wanders through the maze of thick and pathless woods, where the sun's rays never shone, and heaven's pure air never played; he stands on the brink of the roaring waterfall, and, giddy and bewildered watches the foaming mass as it leaps from stone to stone, and from crag to crag; he lingers in the fertile plains of a land of perpetual sunshine, and revels in the luxury of their balmy breath. But what are the deep forests, or the thundering waters, or the richest landscapes that bounteous nature ever spread, to charm the eyes, and captivate the senses of man, compared with the recollection of the old scenes of his early youth? Magic scenes indeed; for the fancies of childhood dressed them in colours brighter than the rainbow, and almost as fleeting!

This is Dickens, from Sketches by Boz. The funeral was that of a long time library user, Octavio - a boarding house resident, with no friends or family save the library and the Sacred Heart Mission. With his nicotine stained beard and ornate Brazilian accent (my but the man could roll his rrrrrrrrrs!) he would greet me with old world courtesy - ah, Miss Foster, and how are you today? - and I'd help him to find a Latin text or an article on political corruption or a cd on how to teach Spanish. The gathering at the funeral was small; the staff of the boarding house, people from Sacred Heart and staff from the library, ten of us in all. Bless the staff from the Sacred Heart because they gave this lonely man a full Catholic funeral service in which we all took part, I with my reading, other library staff with the laying of the shroud and the sprinkling of holy water. Whatever you may think about other aspects of the Catholic church, I must say that they do funerals well. I've never known something to be so comforting - from lighting candles and staring at my little flame burning ever so brightly and strongly through to repeated lines of prayer, 'safe now, safe now'. I've never felt so still and calm inside. After the service, the priest walked before the hearse, right down poor, rough old Gray Street, bringing traffic to a halt. Such respect and dignity for a man who had all but been forgotten.

2 comments:

Admin - SBNG said...

And this, this simple heart-felt honesty, is why I love you so.

Sailor Lily said...

I'll add that when you and Den were talking aobut it afterwards I just felt such pride in you both(and Tobias) and also pride to work somehwere where caring is encouraged. Gorgeous excerpt too.