I went to church last Sunday.
OK, now that you’ve picked yourself up off the floor, I can explain that I was there for a memorial for my late dad, and largely to provide moral support to my mum. I will also acknowledge that it does provide a nice quiet time to contemplate memories of times past, and as such indeed serves as a memorial function.
However, my mental time-travelling was interrupted somewhere in the 80’s as I spotted my sister becoming very agitated along the row from me. She was staring at that thing at the back of the church (it probably has a name, but doesn’t really come up often enough for me to care) in which people stick their lighted candles – a little sand-pit on legs. It’s the custom in many religions I guess to light a candle for the departed, and in many ways we seem to use candles as a little placeholder for those we are remembering- somewhere to focus our thoughts for a short time I suppose.
As she watched the sandpit, she grew increasingly upset and started to cry. Why? While the service was in full swing, some compassionate official decided to give the sand pit a fresh start, and promptly removed all the candles, and smoothed the sand, ready for the next bunch of suckers. By any measure, this was a callous and thoughtless thing to do, but then again, we’ve come to expect that from organised religion, right?
Risking a lightning strike from above, I promptly grabbed my sister, took her over to the candle-thug, and asked him why he would remove the candles during the service, and did he know this young lady had lit one of those candles for her father? Now, this guy was probably just a volunteer, and was clearly struck dumb by being challenged in this way, mumbling something about the church being ‘short of staff’ – though what that had to do with the situation I have no idea. In no uncertain terms I told him it would be common decency to allow the service to finish before clearing away the tributes, at which point he invited my sister to take another candle and light it. Well and good, but the damage was done.
I subsequently learned that the church actually melts down the unused portion of candles to re-manufacture them, which seem to explain nicely why it is in their interests to snuff them out as soon as possible. Cynical? Yep. But accurate.
I left the service, with my interrupted memories, but secure in the knowledge that the church would continue the practice of premature candle snuffing regardless. At least I’d had my say.
No-one melts down my dad for money and gets away with it.