Jan's View

By HarlingDarling

Risto's funeral - out of focus

Risto's funeral was solemn and serious, heartfelt and gentle, emotional and upsetting, filled with human warmth and music that carried us. A double flute was played to begin the service, with some deep singing with a piano accompanying. The flute was so mournful and a strange, haunting sound I'd never heard before, full of longing and "vemod", a very Swedish concept of a sort of enjoyable melancholy. After the service I spoke to the woman who sang and played, and thanked her. She was Risto's sister-in-law. This is quite like what it sounded like.

The priest was a personal friend and had memories and stories of his own, which made it a more touching service. Risto was born in northern Finland and his coffin was draped in the Finnish flag, decorated with northern greenery, pine cones and roses. We sang the first hymn in Finnish, a first for many I suspect. That side of the family filled 4 or 5 pews, having taken the ferry over from Finland. There was a lot of black.

There is a tradition here of processing round the coffin and laying a red rose on the top. It takes time when the church is full, as it was today - he had the gift of easy connection to everyone he met, and consequently had a lot of friends. You see people's sadness as they walk back to their seats and it re-enforces your own, and brings the insight that you are not alone. I think this is something that is done very well here, not wallowing in grief but honouring the person who has died -and loved ones' grief -  in a reverent way. The "ashes to ashes" part of the ceremony is very literal here with three spades full of earth being shovelled onto the coffin as the words are spoken. (In Swedish it's "of earth are you come, to earth shall you return", none of that "passed on" malarky)

There were different moods in various parts of the service, from the balcony behind our heads came the deepest of bass voices singing such a slow and sorrowful song in Finnish, which touched me more than anything else despite understanding not a word. It segued into something quite different, some very Finnish upbeat dance band/jazz music - with hope and joy in the music and a very firm beat.  It was incredible to hear that range of emotion in one short piece of music. The last music was a glorious flute and piano piece, telling of beauty and giving a feeling of the possibility of lightness after sadness.

There was coffee and home-made cakes afterwards, with memories and stories, telegrams, donations read out and so on. The snow started to fall during the coffee and when we came out it was chilly and fresh. There was incredible hoar frost in all the trees, whiteness everywhere you looked. It was stunningly beautiful. We walked 100 meters from the church to look at the river, you can see that view in the extra.

We drove off in fog and deepest darkness, arrived in fog and daylight, enjoyed a brief interlude of brighter fog and snow, then drove home in fog and darkness. Such is a northern mid-winter. The Finnish contingent had to dash off to catch the ferry home. Five of us drove to the top of the nearest ski slope and just made it into the lunch restaurant before they closed. Saffron baked salmon and huge salads. Just what was needed.

I have baked another big batch of mince pies, 36 was never going to see us through the season. Another 30 - made with my elderflower mince meat - might do the trick. I'm tired out now, after a disturbed night, an early start, an emotional day, and heap of baking. Now for episode four of His Dark Materials.

Keith's version of the day, with more about the lovely Risto, is here.

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