Columnists > Whatever might characterise the soul, memory is an integral part of it

03 November 2016 | by Richard Leonard

Whatever might characterise the soul, memory is an integral part of it


The first funeral I ever did was a week after arriving as a deacon at St Canice’s in Kings Cross, the red light district of Sydney. I was asked to do a “pauper’s funeral”, the appalling Dickensian name given to a state-funded cremation.

Karl had been a homeless man, an alcoholic, who had died on the street. The two saintly religious sisters who had cared for him for several years organised his funeral. The nuns thought it would be unlikely that anyone else would turn up.

On the day, there were three more mourners in attendance. After the readings and prayers, and because I had not met Karl, I invited the congregation to share their memories of him. Towards the back of the chapel, the two sisters were shaking their heads. It was too late. A short, stout woman was quickly on her feet. “Thank you very much, Father,” she said deferentially.


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