It is with great disappointment that I know I will never properly meet Uwe, but if it were not for his absence in the world I would never have learned of his existence.
His departure is the very occasion that I was asked to help with. Well, not his actual departure but the customary ‘goodbye’ event that all cultures throughout history and geography endure.
The funeral was a bit different. For a start it was filmed, quite purposely. It is pretty commonplace to film the wedding, the christening, the all inclusive resort on the Costa Del Sol, blowing out the millions of candles on the big milestone birthday cake and in fact every personal event big or small seems fair cop for a bit of a film.
But this is something quite different, simply the thought of recording the funeral of a loved one, I think for most of us comes with unspoken awkwardness.
So it was with a great sense of trepidation and nervousness of how one should act in this somewhat unknown territory that I agreed to help Uwe’s widow, Marina.
Uwe and Marina, originally from Germany, had spent their lives pretty much from university onwards living and working in Oxford, mixing simultaneously with the academic community of the Oxbridge brigade, the regulars of the local M&S and the Brahma Kumaris, who teach Raja Yoga as a way of life to experience peace of mind, with equal openness and enthusiasm.
Uwe had died rather suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack that came with no warning. He left behind an elderly mother and unwell sister in Germany both too vulnerable to travel. Marina had decided that for them, the event should be tastefully and rather organically filmed.
It was with this brief, my camera and tripod, that I trudged down to a woodland burial ground in Wiltshire, to embark on shooting what was to be a very moving, very natural and at times quite unpredictable event.
Uwe and Marina turned up in a hired estate car, Marina driving, and Uwe resting in a wicker casket in the boot.
Marina herself conducted the ceremony, dressed in white and speaking unpractised straight from her heart. There was some singing followed by the final farewell.
Uwe’s ipod was put on random and he seemed to select all the songs that rang out about “losing you”, “marching on” or “never departing”. Everyone grabbed a shovel and saved the grave diggers a job. Some danced while they shovelled earth into the hole, others cried, others stoically and powerfully moved the earth like bulldozers until the casket was covered and the pile of Wiltshire soil was reduced to a small heap next to the grave.
Marina told me she believes we are here on this planet to experience happiness. That is a comforting thought, possibly even a mantra by which to live your life. So I can say that it is without awkwardness, nervousness or trepidation that I can write about this film and share it. It is an intimate piece created for the family of the deceased so with this in mind, it is longer, has more breathing space and a few jump cuts that perhaps a professional event coverer would shudder at. But that wasn’t the point, and I get the feeling that even though Uwe never learned of my existence, he would be supportive of me sharing this film.
With Marina’s permission here is the film: https://vimeo.com/127616575