Anyone familiar with prayers that I lead will attest to the fact that I invariably pray for those "who have died alone and unnoticed, un-mourned or whose faith is known to [God] alone". They are not my words, and I can't remember how I came by them, but it is an important sentiment to me, at least.
Throughout our lives we ponder our demise and wonder not so much what will happen but what our dispatch might be like. What will people say at my funeral? Will there be many there? What music should I have?
...those sorts of things.
I doubt that anyone ever thinks that when they die that they will lay undiscovered for weeks, and that when finally sent off from this world will be accompanied solely by a well-meaning priest and the funeral director. Sadly, one such person will leave this life in that way this week, with my role being the well-meaning priest.
The person concerned lived a long life, will have done many things - some good and some bad. They may have had children and therefore breathed life into a new family that might yet be growing and thriving. They may have given pleasure through kindness to many people, by simple acts of goodness perhaps. They may have given all that they had to charity. They will have made human mistakes, some lesser and some greater. They will have had loves, favoured things. They will have thought myriad thoughts about many things.
And I do not know about a single bit of any of it. I know his name, that's it.
It is not un uncommon thing either. There is a lady who works for this Council (and there is one who will work for all other Councils) whose job is to arrange for someone to give a fitting funeral to people who apparently have no-one. My former neighbour was one such recipient of that service. Her family came forward far too late (just in time for the Will, it seems), and all we 'had' was our memories as next-door-neighbours. She died and lay undiscovered for far too long and died in the worst of circumstances - in pain and alone.
So, this man who I never knew will have a simple funeral without music, without the lyrics of my normal eulogising. In the end, it will be as if he was never there, and it seems to me such a tragedy. For this if nothing else I give thanks for my belief that God knows him and welcomes him home. For my part, he will get the best that I can possibly offer.