Oh Shit

I just remembered my own funeral.  Shit, that was weird.

I’ll have to tell it in something of a stream of consciousness to get it down as it’s coming to me.

It was sunny out.  Ferme Buterne was just a plowed field laying fallow back in those days.  They put up a rickety wooden cross made from splintered shards of timber they’d recently removed from a repaired section of trenches until they could bring in a standard issue wooden cross.  There was a chaplain, of course, wearing this bright purple gown that whipped in the wind.

There were some others there; not a bad turnout for the circumstances, maybe a dozen at the most.  An officer was there, younger than me and looking smart with his big black push-broom mustache, and a few other boys from the battalion.

When they laid me in the ground someone came forward with a concertina and led the others in a chorus of “Abide With Me” as they lowered me down.  That’s when one of the younger privates from the battalion fell to pieces and began sobbing into the shoulder of an older corporal beside him (I saw the two stripes, that’s how I know).

Then about four of them grabbed shovels and filled it all in as the rest dispersed.  They buried me quick and left. The chaplain sprinkled one last shake of holy water on the fresh-turned earth.  Or he may have done it over my shrouded body before they began filling it in.  One of the implements seems to be the sort of narrow shovel the Royal Engineers used for tunneling, but I don’t know of any RE detachments near Houplines at that time so it could be just a standard issue tool for ground-breaking.  At any rate you didn’t need REs to dig a grave when everyone knew how to dig a trench.  I’ll have to look that tool up.

There are a lot of details I can confirm here if I can get some detailed information on the funerary practices of the British Army.  The CWGC may be able to help me there, they’ve been a good source so far.

If this description is accurate, it’s a small piece of evidence to support the idea that I knew I was dead.  I can’t say its accuracy will completely prove anything because I’ve already developed a preconceived notion of what a soldier’s funeral would be like in the Great War from the facts that I do know.

Still, something obscure that isn’t standard might come up later, like the choice of hymn or concertina.  I would think if the company musician had a diary, he would mention playing “Abide With Me” at my funeral if there were at least a few people who were very sad to lose me.

I hope it’s true.  I hope that I was truly missed by some, in spite of never having done much in my 39 years.  And I hope I find them one day in this life.  I have a weird gut feeling about our roommate and I’ve told him so, but I don’t know, and he doesn’t remember if he was there.


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