Rules of Bereavement

One can smile sorrowfully and nod, that one can. One can look sufficiently saddened, and the eyes can be moist with appropriate tears of grief, but one must NEVER cry. A hug; a chaste clasping of hands, but do not lose yourself; it is not the time nor the place. Appear distant and yet familiar; a composed and dignified figure.

Thank God that you wore the dark red blouse; the fitted one with the three quarter sleeves. It complements the knee length black skirt nicely, and you don't look like a grieving widow. Unlike that woman, over there, to the left.

Slide your eyes up slowly now; discreetly. If she caught you staring it would be embarrassing, and you don't want to appear rude. But Lord, what is she wearing?! Black on black? It's too much, honestly. She obviously hasn't been to many of these type of events if she thinks that she can get away with black stockings and black stilettos. Especially with thosefat ankles.

Snap your gaze back quickly. Towards the front! Now!

She's looking at you; her heavily mascara-ed eyes are accusing you as she self-consciously smoothes down her slightly tight rumpled skirt.

Ignore it; ignore her. Look down at your own legs; at your feet, bow your head and clasp your hands. Appear sad, chastened; absolve yourself of this guilt. It's not your fault, these things happen. Move on.

Are you wondering what's going to happen afterwards? Will there be food? Try not to make your stomach rumble so. Even if you didn't eat breakfast, you shouldn't feel so hungry.

Lest this silence be the death of you.

Sit now, as you observe everyone else slide into the hard rows with a rustling of silk and an uncomfortable shifting of weight. Cross one leg over the other as polite elderly coughs punctuate the fan beaten air. A child is crying now; feel a moment of pity as the mother picks him up and hisses to him, her harsh tone choked with shame. Mortified, she rushes outside, son in arms.

Feel embarrassed for her.

Feel sad and humble; blink slowly and cast sympathetic glances towards them. Don't tap your foot; don't move, apart from to lay your hands across your lap; clasp them loosely, demurely.

Jesus Christ, now they have to talk. Give them your full and undivided attention, apart from when you cast annoyed glances at those who do otherwise. Eyes upwards, head tilted slightly, although it does feel heavy. Perhaps if you slide down slightly; lean with your arm out along the back of the seat. It's more comfortable that way.

But then it looks like you're reclining too much. You could even fall asleep like this. It's disrespectful, that it is. Breathe in and push yourself up slowly, being careful not to let your carefully ironed clothes become rumpled. People are crying now, you know, as the speaker's tearful voice quivers, alternating between choked sobs and the painful words which must be said.

You wish that the speaker would just go away, so that this strange, uncomfortable moment will be over. You don't like this feeling of tightness in your chest right now.

Somewhere, to the back of you, a mobile phone rings.

Hesusmarihosep.

There is a collective indrawn breath; a sinister hiss. How dare that phone ring, here and now of all times and places? Head after head turns, including your own. Look for the perpetrator. You will punish them with an accusing stare. But no, he or she is undoubtedly hiding.

Reach for your bag now, slide your fingers around the familiar plastic of the Nokia 3310.

Press Unlock, and then *.

Good. Now turn it off. My God, you are lucky, so lucky that it wasn't yours.

The speaker is finished now; she collapses off the stand amidst a flurry of comforters; each rushing into the melee, to be the one to offer support. Please suppress the urge to roll your eyes up into your head. It is very unbecoming of you.

Stand, now, as everyone else stands, a shuffling of feet and creaking of wood as they all straighten their best attire. Six are holding onto the shiny chrome handles, trying not to groan as they lift. Gods, all that polished wood must be heavy. The white lilies on top are a nice touch, though.

Look on as they march slowly down the aisle, look on as a genuine tear slides down his cheek and please, oh please try not to weep.

There will be a procession now; the motorcade following them to somewhere else... You don't know exactly where it is but it would be easy enough to follow.

Should you go?

If only to see those uncommon things - clods of earth falling onto glossy mahogany - and to hear that infamous line which they use in the movies, then yes.