Several years ago, I can't recall precisely when – it feels like about five, but it was probably seven because it's always later than you think – I detailed on this page the number of weddings and funerals I'd attended. All part of the service this column provides for present sociologists and future historians.
I reckon it's time for an update.
To general rejoicing, at the time of the original analysis, the Big Days outnumbered the Bad Days. I remember predicting, however, that the lead Happy enjoyed over Sad could not last much longer. While my children, and my friends' children, were then too young (as indeed they still are) to be thinking of getting married, a fair few of my relatives, friends and colleagues were easily old enough to be thinking about dying.
Impeccable reasoning, right?
Well, yes. But as it turns out, no. Because, in defiance of my unimpeachable demographic logic, these however many years later, as we all soldier forth into February 2020, my invitations to witness matrimonial rites are still comfortably outstripping those requesting that I observe the funerary equivalent.
Twenty-seven knot-tyings plays 22 RIPs. What's more, I have a 28th wedding in the diary (Zara and Andrew, May 2, same date as mine and Nicola's, incidentally), plus three more fairly solid prospects. I'm quietly confident of getting a stiffy (ooh er, missus) from each of these in the next 12 or at most 18 months. The three couples I have in mind have been living in sin long enough, that's for sure. Shame on them!
I don't, at the time of writing, know a single person at death's door. Or even anyone in the departure lounge. Although obviously, you never know. For the moment, the black tie languishes largely unused and wholly unmourned on its rail at the back of the wardrobe.
Mind you, you don't precisely get an invitation to a funeral, do you? You hear (or you don't hear) about the occasion at short notice, and you go (or don't go), depending on a range of reasons. This disparity between the two rituals – the one publicised precisely months in advance, the other publicised haphazardly, if at all, just days ahead of schedule – may explain the failure of Mr G Reaper to gain the ground he ought to have done in my match and dispatch tallies.
I can think of at least three funerals in the past couple of years that I didn't make because I had other stuff going on. I regret my non-attendance now. The smoke having cleared (as it were), I realise that what seemed more important at the time was, on reflection, not. Let that be a lesson to us all.
Another factor is almost too obvious to mention. Weddings are a cause for celebration. Funerals, despite the plucky modern trend of trying to turn them into such, just aren't. The unavoidable truth is burials and burnings don't have an upside. I'd like to think emotional cowardice does not figure among my many vices, and yet maybe it does.
Let's dig down into the detail. Of the 27 unions (including my own) I have attended, 19 are, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, intact. Six of those that aren't ended in divorce. Two ended in the death of the husband. Fourteen of the 27 ceremonies took place in a church (or chapel), while 13 did not. Nine celebrated the second (or third or, in one case, fifth!) marriage of at least one of the partners, usually the groom. Six of the 27 have thus far not produced any offspring. No correlation exists between this, or divorce, or the number of previous marriages of one or other partners, or the venue and the ensuing duration of the union.
It's a small sample size. But worth putting out there for your consideration nonetheless.
As for the funerals, I beg to report that of the 22 star turns, 10 (2 parents, 1 grandma, 3 great aunts, 1 aunt, 2 uncles and 1 cousin) were blood relatives. A further four were relatives by marriage. The remaining eight were friends or colleagues.
Here's a funny thing: I was way more upset by the demise of most of the eight deceased individuals with whom I had no genetic or familial connection than I was by the exit of most of the other 14. That might be explained by the fact that, while the overall average age of the 22 at their death was a frankly surprising 67, and the average age of my blood relatives when they snuffed it was a gratifying 80, the average age of the 8 people whose funerals I attended despite not being related was a mere 57.
Which leads me to two conclusions, the one banal, the other more controversial. First, the younger someone dies, the more impact that death has. Second, maybe blood isn't thicker than water.
Written by: Robert Campton
© The Times of London