I’VE been pondering on the big issues of life and death recently, prompted by a couple of events.

The first was the fairly nasty accident I had on the motorway. My car was written off but I walked away from it physically unscathed.

I now realise just how fortunate I was to be unharmed.But as the weeks have gone by, I have started to ponder just how lucky I am to be alive. It really was quite a serious accident – motorway closed for a time, police involved etc – but it has indicated to me just how fragile our existence is.

The second event that got me thinking about the meaning of life was the funeral I went to last week. I suppose I’ve now reached that age where the ‘occasion’ I’m most likely to be invited to is a funeral. Engagements, weddings and christenings (not necessarily in that order these days) seem to be a thing of the past.

I was brought up a Catholic – as both my parents were – so the majority of funerals I’ve been to over the years have been full-blown church affairs.

If you’ve never been to a requiem mass, make sure you have your breakfast first because these are long, very long, services.

Not for my family a 10-minute trip to the crematorium.

Which brings me on to the funeral I went to last week. It was for a much-loved family member who had lived a long and rewarding life.

She had been a woman of strong opinions but had never really bought into the whole religion thing. As a result, it wasn’t a religious ceremony, meaning I attended my very first secular funeral. It was conducted by a humanist celebrant and I found the whole thing rather uplifting.

He acknowledged the fact that many of the mourners may well have their own faith but the essence of the service was more about celebrating the personality and achievements of the deceased. It was all very ‘circle of life’.

This got me thinking about some of the more notable funerals I’ve been to over the years.

Now I know they are not meant to be funny but there’s always some humour, no matter how dark or inadvertent, when people gather together and funerals are no exception.

My own father’s springs to mind. My dad was a pretty no-nonsense type of person and had made it quite clear he didn’t want much of a fuss when he went.

We stuck to his wishes and everything was going well with the service at our local parish church up until the point where the priest’s rather large German shepherd dog wandered out of the vestry, crossed in front of the altar and started sniffing the coffin.

If someone had written that in a script for a black comedy, you wouldn’t have believed it but it’s all true.

In stark contrast to my dad’s funeral, my uncle – we’ll call him Fred – wanted all the bells and whistles when he went.

He left strict instructions that no one was to wear black, no mourning clothes at all. The service not only had a soprano soloist but a full male voice choir as well. Fred’s passing into the great beyond was certainly not without its high notes...literally.

Now I’m all in favour of doing away with the dark and sombre but some of his family members took it a little too far, in my opinion. Many of them turned up in what can best be described as holiday attire. I’m not really sure that brightly coloured, full length, vest-top, tie-die dresses are suitable for any occasion in October, and certainly not for a funeral.

Fred’s grandchildren had asked if they could be the coffin bearers but given the massive mismatch in ages, heights and genders, the funeral directors had, very wisely, suggested it would be better if they pushed the coffin into church rather than carry it. Fair enough.

But so garish were their outfits and so sheepish and uncomfortable they looked, I was left with an image in my head of a gang of young shoplifters stealing a shopping trolley from the Aldi in Benidorm.

But back to last week’s funeral. After the event, I was talking to one of the other mourners, a cousin, who made the point that the only time we ever seemed to meet was at funerals these days.

He’s right, of course, and that was the saddest moment of the day.