Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Smash and grab

Last night thirty members of St John's congregation gathered for a Requiem Eucharist, in thanksgiving and remembrance of our friend Vincent, whose funeral took so very long to arrange, because the hospital had somehow managed to have him as a patient for a fortnight without taking any details of next of kin from him, or if they did, they managed to conceal the fact from everyone, including themselves. Our choir robed up to meet Vincent's coffin beforehand at the south gate, and escorted into church for the service. It was a moving simple 'family' occasion with church members present who had known him for most of his life, or worked with him in the tea room. His own closest surviving relatives could not be present, living in Australia and America and unable to travel. His coffin remained there overnight, decked in flowers arranged by
church members.

Today at ten, there were forty odd people in church for the funeral office - some of those who had attended the night before were there again, but not all, as some had to work. Others who couldn't attend last night made it for this morning's service or came to the Crematorium for the Farewell and Committal. There were a dozen members of Cathays Methodist church present. He attended their Tuesday lunch club regularly. They were his friends too. Vincent's poor sight and deafness made him seem more of a lonely person than he really was. He was content to live alone after his mother's death fifteen or more years ago, but remained constantly connected with two local Christian communities where his friendship was treasured.

As we left for Thornhill Crematorium after the funeral office, there was a bit of traffic chaos in the High Street outside. At the entrance to the Castle Arcade, I noticed police cordon tape strung across the battered front of the Clive Ranger jewellery shop, and a parked Panda car nearby - signs of a smash and grab raid. I learned later that it had happened just a short while before we'd left church. Two hundred thousand pounds worth of goods stolen, including two valuable Fabergé eggs on display. Balaclava'd men with a sledge hammer had got away with daylight robbery on a busy thoroughfare.

I spoke later in the day to the shop manager, to express my sympathies. He simply said how thankful he was that nobody was injured. He was philosophical about the assault on the shop, having seen much worse outcomes in his thirty years as a trader in precious things. And he graciously thanked me for 'my time'. I was amazed he had time to stop a minute to speak to me, a stranger in a dog collar, what with all the details of a big insurance claim to sort out, and a shop front to get repaired as soon as possible.

A strange event accompanying Vincent's final farewell.

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