Several years ago, I attended the funeral service of a contemporary of mine. It was obviously a heart rending occasion. The video player in my mind rewound to moments of shared adolescence – conversations, japes and scrapes gathering in a slideshow, through to the last phone conversation we had as adults, which was more guarded. Our paths in life were only meant to cross in our school days.
I showed up to pay respect, even though I have never been a regular Church goer. The service was engaging and it felt like everyone present was genuinely saddened by the sudden demise.
A singer was introduced to sing a song in the service. Out of professional interest, I was immediately more focused in my attention. He was going to sing a well known religious song, which I knew from my schooldays, but had never learnt for my own repertoire.
All seemed to be going well, when suddenly there was a hiatus, possibly due to the accompanist making a mistake and not covering up for it, swiftly enough. The singer went into a strange phase of confusion and instead of waiting for the accompanist to make amends, got stuck in the feeling of having goofed in this rite of passage event. It took a brief but painful struggle to retrieve the performance.
It transpired that the accompanist was probably not experienced enough to hold his emotions in check, during such an upsetting sequence of events. Sometimes, empathy needs to be restrained, to enable the overall flow of a ritual to proceed without any hitches.