Yesterday I attended the stone setting of a local friend I know from the David Lloyd gym, who had an untimely death aged 60. Alan neither ate nor drank to excess, played tennis and golf and had a placid temperament. Last year he complained of severe pain that he thought was sciatica and was later diagnosed with cancer. He died in January last year.
It is the Jewish custom to lay the memorial stone a year or so after the death. This serves as more of a commemoration or memorial, as the funeral in the Jewish faith is very soon after the death and there is little or no time to prepare any sort of commemoration, other than the officiating rabbi saying a few words on the life of the departed .
Alan was a financial advisor and perhaps distinguishable from others in his community for 2 reasons. His extremely pleasant wife Maggie, an Australian, was born non-Jewish and converted to Judaism. Theirs was a most successful marriage. Secondly, rather than supporting Spurs – as most of that generation did growing up in North West London with the 61 double team – he was a Fulham supporter. In her address, Maggie spoke of Alan going to Craven Cottage with his friend Alan. This Alan suffered a debilitating stroke 6 years ago but he was alive and at the stone setting reception . Alan Z had every reason to consider he would live the longer but life, or I suppose death, does not always work out that way.
The two addresses, by his sister and wife, were deeply moving in their simplicity. As ever, you learned new things about the person. Alan was a talented photographer, for example. I saw yet another Alan, Tanner of this parish. He wore his Fulham scarf and Fulham tie and had tears in his eye when Maggie spoke of Fulham. I am not really a football person, but I was struck by the fellowship that Alan Tanner, a goy, should get across from Whitton, in the West, to Cheshunt cemetery in the North East of the capital, to attend this ceremony of a fellow fan. Alan told me that Fulham have a chaplain Gary Piper, who speaks eloquently at Fulham players’ and fans’ funerals and memorials.
I have noted over the years that sartorial standard at funerals and memorials have become far more informal. Many were in jeans and few wore a tie. I don’t necessarily disapprove, but I found myself staring at one fellow in biker’s gear, complete with chains and leathers with insignia. I asked Maggie who he was. He was the son of a client and a former policeman. Perhaps one more thing I never knew about Alan was that he rode out with bikers too.