Yesterday was one of those really awful days which leave you utterly tired without having accomplished anything. Because I had to go to both a birthday and a funeral.
The birthday was my uncle’s 80th. He’s living at an old people’s home and not very well, so it was obvious that I had to go. The party was held in the afternoon at a separate room in the old people’s home. The room was nicely furnished and there was coffee and tea and my aunt had baked cake (of which I only ate a small slice, because cake, particularly the creamy varieties so popular among older people, does not agree with me).
Luckily, my uncle was reasonably well and seemed rather happy. He does get a bit confused on occasion, e.g. he made my cousin three years older than she is, got Rügen and Rostock mixed up and the like. He also has the tendency to burst into tears over the oddest of subjects such as a tunnel that had been proposed but never built more than forty years before. But otherwise he is in surprisingly good shape for someone who has not been well in a long time and who was seriously ill a couple of years ago.
In addition to me and my parents, there were some other people as well. A few neighbours and friends from the rose growers’ association, an old lady from the home and a pastor. The talk was mostly roses, of which I know next to nothing, bus schedules (there are not enough busses and they never arrive when needed) and catching up with neighbours and acquaintances whom I do not know, so it wasn’t the most exciting two hours I ever spent. Though the discussion about the differences between fairytales and fantasy literature (apparently a TV show claiming to search for “Germany’s most beloved fairytale” had gotten both hopelessly mixed up and pushed both Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings into the top ten) was promising.
One thing I have noticed when attending the birthdays of very old people is that it is usually a good idea to sit next to the pastor, if possible. Whether you agree with them on religious matters or not, pastors are almost always interesting people to talk to.
Interesting tidbit: Apparently, there are still people who are annoyed that the Saarland is no longer an independent protectorate more than fifty years after the Saarland joined the Federal Republic of Germany. So either I met the one independence minded Saarländer or the whole “The people of the Saarland voted to join the Federal Republic of Germany and were so happy about it” stuff I heard in school (holding up the Saarland as a model for integrating East Germany) was yet more of the fudging of historical facts that I have become used to by now.
In itself, the afternoon spent with my uncle and aunt wouldn’t have been that tiring, even though old people’s homes always make me awfully sleepy, because they are always too hot and there is never enough air.
However, a few days ago I read in the paper that one of my neighbours had died and that the funeral was yesterday morning, so I had to attend that as well. The neighbour had been battling cancer for years (sixteen according to the eulogy), but he hadn’t seemed sicker than usual. I still saw him on the street and said hello maybe a week ago.
I live in a semi-rural area, where funerals are still big affairs. And the chapel of the local cemetery is often too small to hold all the mourners. I suspect that there is some formula for calculating the size of cemetery chapels in relation to the size of the parish. But it is always off for rural or semi-rural areas, where half the village may show up for a funeral. In addition, the deceased had been president of the Bremen rowing club, so there were lots of rowers in attendance, complete with club flag and oars in the club colours held aloft to salute the coffin.
I arrived twenty minutes early, but the inner chapel was already packed. Luckily, I did snag a seat in the antechamber of the chapel. Lots of others were not so luckily and had to stand in the antechamber or even outside. At one point, they played Scarborough Fair on the organ – I suspect the deceased was a fan of the Simon and Garfunkel version – which worked surprisingly well, probably because medieval ballads do match well with church organs. They also played Yesterday and I am sailing, probably because there are no songs about rowing other than “Row, row, row your boat”.