OK I’ll be honest: I qualified for a Senior Railcard more than a year ago but didn’t get one. I resisted; I put it off, partly I wondered whether I used the trains enough to justify the expense but mainly, if I’m honest, it was seeing that ‘S’ word that stopped me filling in the form and stumping up my thirty quid. But now I guess the sting of hitting sixty has faded a little (life in the fast lane, eh?) plus I’ve made a conscious decision to drive less and take the train more, so here we are: yesterday I filled in the form, stumped up the cash and received confirmation which seemed to be competing to get the most repetitions of the word ‘Senior’ in one email. Dear SENIOR citizen, thank you for applying for your SENIOR railcard now that you are a SENIOR person. Get all the SENIOR benefits from you SENIOR card… OK, I get it! I am now Senior. I am having a Senior Moment and will go on having one for quite some time.
When I was young the elderly used to be called Senior Citizens if you were being polite and old people if you weren’t, but nowadays nobody is actually ‘old’ because being ‘old’ is next-door to being dead and no-one wants to talk about that. Death has long since replaced sex as the great taboo; we postpone it for as long as possible (no death before seventy, please) and most of us never see it happen. Death is tucked away in clinical environments, hidden from view: even accidental or criminal death is very soon hidden behind forensic tents and crime-scene tape and few of us actually witness the death of a loved one. My sister and I insisted on staying with our mother when she died (she’d been unconscious for ages) and though it was hard, I’m glad we did. It was peaceful and I’m sure it helped the grieving process.
In the midst of life we are in death. Oo look, I’ve gone all biblical now: but I think that’s something we tend to ignore. We have an uneasy relationship with the dead, being unsure how to commemorate their passing (do we dress in black and look sad? Do we wear bright colours and celebrate?) and funeral corteges go at quite a clip compared to when I was a child, so as not to hold up the traffic; after all we can’t have the dead inconveniencing the living, can we?
I have to confess, I’m not a fan of the ‘wear bright colours and celebrate’ trend. I dislike being told to ‘wear bright colours’ (though to be fair, I dislike being told what to wear in general) because there’s an implication that one is being told how to feel – and I may not feel like being glad and celebrating: the mourning gets squeezed out, somehow, in these events. But then I’m not a huge fan of everyone wearing black and being deadly serious. There should be laughter and joy as well as mourning.
It’s hard ain’t it?
But this remains one of my favourite funeral scenes, containing as it does both laughter and sadness, joy and grief – and of course, poetry: