People used to be buried in their Sunday best .. not so much now
The beginning of 2016 has been marked in the UK by the deaths of several iconic figures: David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Natalie Cole and the inimitable Lemmy Kilmister, frontman of Motorhead (you can watch extracts from Lemmy's memorial service here). The reactions, especially to the death of Bowie, have been spectacular: on the one hand, it's kind of remarkable both Bowie and Lemmy made it, more or less, to the three score years and ten we now see as a minimum, given the way they chose to live their lives. On the other hand, it was felt as a shock: we somehow didn't expect them to leave so soon, these people who were so important in our young lives, and who seemed to have been our constant companions as we all stagger forwards into the unknown.
It's the music. We think we know them, and that they know us. A friend of mine said, of David Bowie: "He made us all believe we could be beautiful." He was much more than a musician, but in the days following his death it was the music we went back to: everyone was playing Major Tom, Ashes to Ashes, Changes, Heroes .. and the sharply painful tracks from Black Star. All the incarnations he went through seemed to mirror our own. He also understood the power of the outfit and what it could do to lift and change your life.
I am also acutely aware of the numbers of lost lives elsewhere, and the horrific dilemma faced by people who live in impossible circumstances and yet have to risk their lives to leave. The Nick Danziger exhibition in The Imperial War Museum tells the stories of eleven women in different conflict zones. It is harrowing and also uplifting: the young woman who had her hands brutally amputated, but is now living in Toronto, for example. The photo of her at a bus stop, pretty, stylish, doing an amazing job for the community, smiling into the camera, makes you weep and marvel.
And there is still that plastic container in the hall, containing my mother's ashes. A comfort and an accusation. Nothing new there, then.