What do you think of, when you see the words, ‘Black Tie’?
Perhaps a formal dinner, a special occasion, or a well-dressed wedding? When I was younger, I used to dread seeing those words. They meant that I would have to hire a dinner suit, and either struggle with tying a bow tie, or wearing one already attached to a strap. Then finding cufflinks to use with those formal shirts with the pleats and darts, shirts with no other practical use. But that was decades ago, and I have had no need nor reason to wear such things for almost forty years.
But Black Tie has come to mean something else to me. It is the colour of the tie that I wear most frequently these days. In fact, other than a couple of weddings I have attended in the last five years, it is the only colour tie I have occasion to wear. Because I now attend a lot of funerals, so my old tie is getting a lot of use. Use that I wish there was no need for, but at my age, inevitable.
I have attended two funerals already this year. The first was that of my beloved Aunt, on the 19th of January. This was a family affair, and no less sad because she had lived to a great age. Seeing relatives who you hadn’t heard from since the last funeral we all attended. Young children of cousins, now adults, seemingly grown overnight into different people. Older relatives; familiar, looking tired, reflecting your own passing years in their faces like a mirror. Food and drink and catching up, back at the house.
Fond reminiscences, followed by fond farewells.
Then yesterday, the funeral of my great friend, Billy. A long drive to another sad day, with mist and rain providing a suitable backdrop. This was a funeral where not only his family and friends gathered, but also many former colleagues. The attendance was the largest I can recall at a funeral, indicating how well Billy was thought of, and how much everyone wanted to be there to say goodbye. A Humanist service, some wonderful music, and the poignant scene of his Boxer dog, Bruno, sitting patiently in the front row. Chatting to people remembered after twenty years or more. Hearing stories of others who had passed away, and hoping to meet some again before too long.
Sadness tinged with happy memories indeed.
On the way home, we were unlucky to get a punctured tyre on a busy motorway. In driving rain, and stopped on the pitch-black hard shoulder, it was too dangerous to investigate. We had to call out the breakdown company, and wait for seventy minutes in this precarious spot. The mechanic told us that the tyre was shredded, and the car had to be loaded onto his truck to be brought home, with us riding inside his vehicle. We got back at 11:30 pm, more than thirteen hours after leaving home that morning.
I put my black tie back on the rack in the wardrobe, hoping never to need it again.
Staying positive, in 2017.