I didn't know the deceased.
I was there to support a friend as his said goodbye to his father of 81 years.
It's the one and only time I've attended a funeral without weeping for the person in the box and was able to observe the process of dispatch from a pragmatic distance.
The process and the business of dealing with the dead.
His service was scheduled for 2.15pm closely followed by another poor soul at 3. Around six or seven for the day in just one of the chapels of which there were three. (You do the math.) The large chapel took centre stage, we were in a smaller version on the right. Room for 46 people to sit.
Standing was not allowed.
So the sign said.
We barely took up the first two rows.
His family, his peers and me.
The Vicar looked and behaved exactly as he should.
With warm and quiet respect.
And he'd done his homework judging by the amount of pages he flicked over on his notepad.
He even included a little ditty about the chap's fondness for cricket.
Nice touch that.
I wondered how long his visit to the house must have been to elicit information.
Suddenly we were singing Abide with Me. Always a favourite.
Thank goodness for backing tracks.
I must say we sounded positively angelic.
Another few words of comfort.
I watched closely to see how he would do it.
Ah! There it was.
We caught each other's eye and he had the decency to look away.
Heavy sobs filled the air and I swallowed the lump in my throat as the coffin was hidden from view by silent, well oiled drapes.
A side door swung open.
The one we had entered by firmly closed behind us.
Above the door a red light warned NO ENTRY - SERVICE IN PROGRESS
' Late comers will not be admitted until a suitable break in the performance.'
Quietly, professionally, we were ushered outside to breathe again, enjoy the flowers and pay respects clutching an order of service in place of a programme.
The deceased having made his exit stage-left cheered on by a hearty chorus of Land of Hope and Glory!
The sum total of his existence pondered in just twenty minutes.
Such is the Theatre of Life
even in death.