A Tribute to
by Sandra Crook
really guilty, said Alice, watching the
coffin being carried into the church. I
wish Id never raised the issue.
Sheila patted her
arm. Dont blame yourself dear,
somebody had to do something. It was really
painful, having to listen to that every Sunday
morning. It needed to be said.
Etheringtons coffin was carried up the
aisle, and laid on a trestle in front of the
Alice and Sheila
sidled into the pews at the back of the church.
Thered been a good turn-out, which was only
fitting considering that the deceased had been a
dedicated member of the church community for many
The organist, the
new organist that is, struck up the chords for
the first hymn. Alice supposed he too must be
feeling uncomfortable, having taken the role
previously held by Jemima Etherington. After
shed been inauspiciously prised out of it
by the new vicar, that is.
Even the vicar
looked uneasy, she thought, as he shuffled
through his sermon notes. Hed been almost
relieved when Alice had broached the subject of
Jemimas increasingly erratic organ playing,
seizing enthusiastically on the opportunity to
if she doesnt hear that shes playing
completely the wrong notes, hed said
in agreement. Was she always that bad?
Alice had reflected carefully. She
was never that good, she said, after
consideration, but she was never quite this
So a replacement
had been identified, and Jemima had been gently
relieved of her duties. Shed protested,
argued, declared that shed never return to
the church and had bolted sobbing from the vestry.
Crossing the graveyard at a mighty lick,
shed fallen head over heels into an open
grave being prepared for a funeral the next day,
and had died in hospital from complications
arising from her injuries. It had all been very
The vicar cleared
his throat and began his sermon.
Etherington, he intoned lugubriously,
was a pillar of this community.
The organ blew a
loud raspberry; the congregation gasped.
The vicar glared
angrily at the startled organist before resuming.
her life she gave unstinting service to the
The organ bellowed
out a cacophony of chords, so loud that the
candlesticks trembled on the altar.
turned to the aghast congregation, shaking his
head and pointing at his own chest.
he mouthed silently.
and was a
regular worshipper here for more than 50 years
The organ emitted
a banshee-like wail and the organist leapt from
his seat, standing pressed against the wall as if
to make it clear this was nothing to do with him.
stalwart member of the Womens Institute
He paused and
waited for the organ to comment. Silence.
miss her contribution to church life
he said, gathering confidence, and more
At this point the
organ suddenly burst into a horrific and barely
recognisable rendition of Jerusalem'
and the entire congregation bolted for the door.
The vicar surveyed
the empty church, as the organ thundered happily
away in the corner and the stained glass windows
shivered in their frames.
I think I
may owe you an apology, Mrs Etherington
he began uncertainly in the brief
silence between the first and second verse.