Talking About Funerals

This Thursday, James Gandolfini will be honoured at a service in the Cathedral St John The Divine, the very same Cathedral we see from every western vantage point of our apartment.Cathedral Collage

The neighbourhood will be crawling with international press and the skies above our apartment will be a buzz with helicopters but this time they’re be reporting a major event, not chasing down some petty criminal or drugged up local behaivng badly.

I imagine all manor of celebrities will be in attendance, I’m hoping to get in amongst it all but I imagine security will be pretty tight.

I feel sad for the family, their day of mourning will be taken over by the paparazzi and news crews from around the world. I know that’s part of celebrity life but he was also a husband and a father and when everyone else gets on with their day the Gandolfini family have to learn to live without a very important part. I truly empathise with them.

I’ve attended my share of funerals over the years. Most of them pretty standard in proceedings. My Grandmother was the first viewing I ever had and it was unnerving to say the least. She moved, my mum and I both saw it. I am yet to explain it and maybe I never will. It was like the three of us were having our last moment. The hardest one, my Dad’s, well that’s another story.

Not long after my Grandmother we lost a very close friend to cancer. He was The King’s music partner for many years. They had a very popular duo when I met the King and he was a large part of our lives for around 20 years. We lost touch when we moved away but when we reconnected shortly before his diagnosis, he was so very happy to see how things had worked out for us.

A few months later he spent 2 weeks with us, so he could record ‘Summertime’ in our studio, you see it was the song he played at all the funerals and he wanted to play it at his own. Watching someone record their death march song is quite profound. His fight was short lived and we knew as we left his benefit concert that we would not see him again. He had shrunk in stature and his body was just skin and bone. He accepted his fate and was finally proud of the fact that he could fly while carrying marijuana and no one could arrest him! He joked that it took cancer to become legal 🙂

He passed about 3 weeks later, at 49, while we were in Italy, that night we heard ‘Summertime’ play in the restaurant, we weren’t notified but we knew. We received the news upon reentry into Australia the very next night.

Being Jewish, tradition dictates that the dead are buried quickly and in a pine box. I was asked by his partner if I would paint his coffin. The idea was that the plain pine box would be painted with blue with clouds and golden saxophones and then on the day, friends and relatives could write something on it. It was a wonderful idea.

Naturally I accepted but I did wonder if he’d be on board- he wasn’t.

But the next morning, he hoped on board, we all dressed in colourful clothes, wrote our messages on his pine box and sent him on his way. It was a fitting end to a colourful life.

Some funerals are more celebratory than others. Have you experienced any interesting proceedings?


A Mother Life
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Comments 2

  1. What a touching post. I have not attended many funerals. Not because I don’t know many who passed, but I seem to never be in the right portion of the country when they occur. I loved James Gandolfini and am completely heartbroken for his family, and the world that he passed away so young. He will be in my thoughts tomorrow.

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