It was Lulu who drew George’s attention to Dr. Jinkinson’s death in the obituary section of the daily paper.
‘I think you should go,’ she said thoughtfully, anticipating her husband’s objection.
‘To his funeral, of course. Where else?’
George expostulated vehemently, but it did no good. His wife’s charity always prevailed.
‘I know you thought him a pompous know-all, but it will be good for your soul to go…’
‘My soul? What about his?’
‘His is undoubtedly being judged, and perhaps found wanting, but yours has time to be improved. Your Judgement Day, God willing, is some time off yet. Don’t forget, I went to Daisy Duffy’s funeral, even though I could not abide her.’
George considered the justice of this remark. Mrs. Duffy had been a notoriously spiteful neighbourhood gossip. Lulu still baked a fruit loaf for her widowed husband at Christmas. Laodicean in faith as he was, George knew he would defer to his wife’s adamantine certitude in matters spiritual every time, but not without protest. Self-respect required at least that.
‘He was a tyrant, a buffoon, a tiresome, self-important windbag.’
‘Nevertheless. He leaves a widow and children, and perhaps some sorrowing friends. Ask not for whom the bell tolls,’ she reminded him--unnecessarily, he thought-- ‘It tolls for thee.’
‘To show an unfelt sorrow is an office which the false man does easy,' retorted George, ‘as was said of Macbeth after the discovery of Duncan’s murder. And there, I’ve outDonne you with Shakespeare!’
‘You have,’ conceded his wife. ‘But you’re not Macbeth, and, I hope, not false, either. Dr. Jinkinson, unlike Duncan, was not murdered. His time had come. As ours will.’
So George went. No man is an island, after all.
Gribble and Thomsett, long-established undertakers with impeccable United Church credentials, catered to the city’s professional classes. Their ‘non-denominational’ service was popular: it laid emphasis on the public service of the departed. The ‘memorial celebration’ of Dr. Jinkinson’s life was to be held in an ‘Encounter Room’ with subdued lighting, encouragingly free from religious taint or problematical ecclesiastical encumbrance of any kind, and tastefully furnished with comfortable leather chairs grouped around a slightly raised dais surmounted by an impressive highly polished and spotlit lectern. It reminded George of the city council chamber where many of the firm’s worthy clients had undoubtedly spent interminable boring evenings away from their wives and children in their working lifetimes. Above the dais, behind smoked glass, discreetly winked the lights of the room where the proceedings were recorded and offered for sale following this most final of encounters. Pachelbel’s Kanon was playing softly.