Yet another good friend less
Yesterday evening I accompanied my father to attend the funeral of one of his best friends. I knew the deceased too. When I was young my father often brought me along to their weekly hiking party. They – my father, the deceased and a few men and occasionally their wives – had set up a hideout somewhere up the hill, where they had pots and stoves to make tea everyday and food every Sunday. The tea was made of spring water. I cannot recall how it tasted, but I have always thought it was the best tea I have tasted. It will be the best in my whole life, I believe. It is not so much remembered by its flavour as by its scalding hotness (straight from the boiling pot into an handleless ceramic cup), the smell of kerosene and sometimes faggots, and its soothing effect (as it was the first quench of my thirst after the hour-long sweaty hike). When I write this, I can almost feel the heat on my fingers, see the vapour rising from the cup and my lips sipping from the brim. I can almost remember the tea's flavours. About a year ago one of the other men passed away, after lying many months in bed in hospital. I did not went to his funeral service.
In the funeral parlour yesterday my father and I were probably the first to arrive. I heard he said he had known the deceased since 1962. In the friend's final months he had wanted to pay a last visit to the friend in hospital, if not for the friend's daughter telling him not to because her father could not communicate or recognise people at all.
My father sat beside the surviving spouse talking to her while I sat at the opposite side of the hall. Tears welled up my eyes. When the eldest son of the deceased came to thank me for showing up, I verged on crying but managed to utter: 'My duty, for I know him too.' For the half hour I was sitting by myself, I thought how long my father could live on, who would turn up at his funeral, and who would turn up at my funeral. I also realised that in recent years I had attended more funerals than weddings. A good indication that I am past the happy time of my life.
On the homeward taxi ride I did not speak a word, not daring to ask my father whether the deceased was his best friend or who among his hiking mates had passed away. I feared my father is the last survivor. When we had got off the taxi, he said to himself 'Another thing done. Yet another good friend less.'