Yesterday I was thinking what a difficult job lorry driving is in this weather and remembering my own experiences, when I came across a chappie in the churchyard sweating buckets as he was replacing the rock hard soil on the top of a coffin after a burial. He had filled the hole up to capacity and then had to trundle across the foot deep snow with his wheelbarrow, to dispose of the excess onto the pile in the corner. After several trips backwards and forwards, I watched him lean on his spade for a few minutes while he took a swig from his bottle of water. I felt quite sorry for him.
Apparently more elderly people die in the winter than the summer. I realise in these hard times that someone might be gratefull for a job as a grave digger, but I can't help wondering that it might be a lot easier if the corpse was sent on it's final journey to a crematorium during ice cold weather. We could perhaps keep the burials for the summer months when the sun shines and the flowers dance in the breeze. A more pleasant task for the grave digger.
A few years ago when times were very lean, I was doing several part time jobs to make ends meet, one of them being the church cleaner. I gave myself the title, Church Scrubber, which brought a little chuckle whenever I mentioned it. I had a key to let myself in and could choose my own hours to fit in with everything else. I was in there one day at about 4pm, when the vicar came in. He looked a little perplexed and asked how long was I going to be. I said I had mopped the stone floors, done the dusting, cleaned the toilet, and needed to get the hoover out for the carpets.
He said the funeral directors were due to arrive with Mr Webster, in a box, and his wife was coming along to pay her respects and meet her husband on his final journey. The plan was to leave him there untill the funeral the next day. I said, 'That's ok, I will go home and have my tea and come back to finish off.'
Two hours later I crept into the church and put all the lights on, glancing at the coffin on it's wooden stand at the front. I plugged the hoover in and started. I did all round the edges first but my eyes were drawn towards the coffin as I got closer and closer. I kept thinking about what would happen if this was a horror film, imagining the lid to slide off, and Mr Webster slowly rising to sit bolt upright. I looked to see if the lid was fastened down, it was, and I was relieved. As my initial apprehension subsided and I became more comfortable with the situation I found myself talking to him and hoovering right underneath him. I hope he appreciated the effort I was putting in to make the church look nice for him. I often say hello as I stroll past his grave.
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