On the day Mo died, the undertakers came about 7pm to take the body. I showed them upstairs to her bedroom and they suggested that I wait in the living room with the door closed while they went about their business, explaining that from experience that was less distressing.
They asked if I minded if the front door of the house was left open meantime to make things easier for them and I readily agreed.
20 minutes or so later they chapped the living room door and explain they are done. We discuss further arrangements and they depart. I see them to the door.
As I turn to go back to the living room I notice that on the kitchen worktop, in a Tupperware container, there is something that had not been there previously. On further investigation it is a lasagne. And it is hot.
The only possible initial explanation for this is that while all this has been going on, one of Andi’s two boys, who are both currently here and have typical teenage appetites, has decided it appropriate to heat up a lasagne from the freezer. I am, as you can imagine, furious at this supposed disrespect but they both deny all knowledge, protesting not unreasonably, that even if they had heated a lasagne, they’d have eaten it. Their mother further observes that she does not recognise the Tupperware as being from this house.
But the only possible alternative is that the undertakers have left the lasagne.
But why would they do that? “Sorry for your loss. In case you’re hungry however we have brought you a wee lasagne.” And even if this was some sort of bizarrely misconceived wraparound service that had developed since I last organised a funeral, why would they not have mentioned this.... "gesture"?
By now however I was running out of options. The only other possibility was that the undertakers had left this by mistake! It was tea time after all and undertakers have to eat like anyone else.
But I mean how inappropriate would that have been! Formal complaint to the Undertakers Regulator: “ Dear sir, I wish to complain that while removing my wife’s body from the house, the undertakers accidentally left their dinner behind”
And would they then come back for it? “We are sorry to bother you and still sorry for your loss, Mr Smart. It's just, when we were here earlier, did we accidentally leave something behind? It’s only that we’re starving.”
Just as that horrific prospect raised its head, the mystery was solved.
We have great neighbours, in every one of the other five houses in the street.
I didn’t want them to learn of Maureen’s death by seeing the hearse at the door. So I’d gone round earlier to advise them individually of her death.
And one, Yvonne, had had the foresight to think that cooking and eating would be the last thing on my mind. So, without telling us, she had made us a lasagne.
But the undertakers hadn’t come in a hearse, rather in an unmarked black transit van.
So, as Yvonne is toddling along with her lasagne, she suspects nothing. And as she finds our door wide open she just comes in and is about to shout my name when she looks up the stairs to the half landing, sees the undertakers bringing the body down, clocks the significance of the black van, panics and runs away. But not before thinking that she’ll just leave the lasagne!
The lasagne was brilliant, by the way.