Today I went to my Aunt Rachel’s funeral. I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing there, to be honest. She was never interested in me, my sister or my son, and I was never interested in her. There were no specific things about her that I disliked, we just had nothing in common.
I spent most of the ceremony sat in the front row feeling like a fraud. Behind me were rows and rows of people, Rachel’s friends. I expect that most of them didn’t even know that she had a nephew. I felt that they were her real family, not me. They were the ones who would miss her. I sat and listened, feeling a lump in my throat here and there, looking to my left to gauge my dad’s reaction, to my right to see my sister’s. My dad was staring ahead, his face betraying no emotion. My sister would catch my eye whenever I turned to her, her face reading as something like “assuming that you’re thinking the same thing as me, then yes, I agree.” Anyone with a sibling will know that one.
As the ceremony ended, the first person to leave was John, her husband. And as he passed in front of me, I saw an expression in his face that turned the whole afternoon on its head. There was the determination of a man who was focussed on making sure that his wife got the send-off that she would have wanted. There was the relief of a man who was glad that his wife’s 20 month dalliance with cancer was over. And there was the despair of a man who had lost the woman that he loved, the one that he had chosen, the one that he had lived every day with. I realised – there’s a man that has lost his Karen.
And my concerns about feeling like a fraud were suddenly insignificant.
Incidentally, Rachel’s decision to have Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood played as her coffin was removed from a black motorcycle sidecar and carried into the crematorium was fucking awesome. I shit ye not.