“Who is this older man in the tweed jacket with patched elbows? He comes in late after all mourners are seated, just before the service starts. He sits by himself in the pew at the back, on the aisle seat. While the minister drones the Psalm..”yea, though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death…”he wipes his eye with his sleeve. During the Eulogy, he nods in silent agreement. Solemn, subdued, at the end of the service, he files out to the lobby with the rest and takes his place at the end of the condolence line. Once face to face with the widow, he grasps her hand in both of his and murmurs, “Harry was a great golf and tennis partner. I will miss his many comments and observations on sports and life. My condolences.” The bereaved woman is surprised to learn her husband – he who had been a paraplegic for the past twelve years after that awful car accident -had been so skilled on the links and the grass courts! The condolence line moves on and with it the man in tweed. With the milling, jostling crowd he shuffles toward the refreshments table. Here are platters of stuffed eggs, tuna sandwiches, brownies, tea and coffee. Here he takes up station and works through the offerings. Many may wonder about his connection to Harry, the deceased, but are really too occupied to pay any mind to him. He eats a sampling of food from the table, then leaves saying his courtly goodbyes to those he passes. Unnoticed, he pushes out into the rainy afternoon.”
One evening, “Rumpole” and I were dinner guests at a small party our son, “Renaissance Man” and his wife had organized for a group of their closest friends. “RM” is a funeral director, as was one of the men attending this soiree. Each of these young men manage funeral homes in close walking distance from each other. “RM” asked his friend during dinner, “Was the crasher at your service yesterday afternoon?” So that question led to a spirited, yet thoughtful dicussion about the many reasons why people, including complete strangers, might attend funeral services. They noted this old man at many funeral services, and concluded he was lonely and hungry!