All the elements were in place. My old home town of Ararat. The old church where I used to be an alter boy. Plenty of family members who still seem to have a religious feeling. My sisters sitting in the same pew which reminded me of those interminably long church services we sat through in our school uniforms one Friday every month. In Latin (at least in the beginning).
But things were different. The old bluestone church is smaller. The stained glass windows are covered by blinds. The dark and foreboding confessionals have gone and in their place stand glass doors and a light atmosphere that seem totally out of place for receiving the standard penance of “5 Our Fathers and 10 Hail Marys and don’t handle yourself indecently again.”
The pulpit is gone too. The very structure from which an angry Priest launched his crucifix at a talking boy has been removed. And above the Altar, a well lit dome has been installed courtesy of a fire some years ago. The overall affect of all these changes is a less intimidating building but somehow it seems a less important building too.
I think their God has become more welcoming but it certainly isn’t enough to draw this old sinner back into their clutches.
The Funeral though, was magnificent.
The acoustics in this building are a blessing to your ears. Out of respect for Aunty Judy I did not attempt the reworded hymns. It would have been sacrilege. Somewhere on the other side of the church was an older gentleman with an outstanding tenor voice and when heard with the whispered voices of the ladies singing in the pews, it was enough to bring a tear to the eye. At one point in the service a tape was played of Ave Maria which may well have been from Mario Lanza but I think this local chap would have sounded even better.
After an hour of the recalling of memories and some priestly contributions the service was over and we retired to the Cemetery.
I haven’t been there since the very early 70s and the place sure has grown. Headstones for Mothers of school mates and even some school mates lie there and the memories came flooding back.
For Aunty Judy’s funeral this was an emotional and fitting finale. Because her fight with breast cancer had finally ended there were a lot of pink balloons which were released individually into a rain threatening sky. With the heart wrenching strain of KD Lang’s Hallelujah playing gently in the background I can’t think of a more poignant passing.