After breakfast I decided to visit Jesus. I heard the wailing from some way off. Joseph had died in the night. The good thing was that Jesus had seen him and they had had a good long talk during the evening. Maybe Joseph had been holding on for Jesus’ return before he would give in to death’s call.
We spent the day organising the funeral, and suddenly Mary and I were working together on the arrangements as if we had always been close friends. Joseph’s body had already been laid out, washed and dressed by the time I arrived. The important thing was to get him buried the same day, before he started to decompose too badly. Sometimes families lay bodies in stone tombs, partly to avoid accidentally burying someone who isn’t actually dead, like poor Lazarus, and partly so that when they have decomposed completely after a year, the bones can be gathered up and put somewhere safe in an ossuary to await the final judgement, if you believe in the new ideas that there is more to the afterlife than an eternity in the darkness of Sheol. But as Joseph was very clearly dead and his flesh was on the turn, and Mary didn’t believe in bone boxes, it was a simple earth burial outside the village.
Once the crowd of family and friends had fully gathered, Jesus and his brothers, reunited by this sad but unsurprising event, carried the body, wrapped in a simple cloth shroud, to the burial ground outside the village. We only had a couple of professional mourners but the rest of us joined in to give the old man a good wailing send-off. After we had all thrown some earth onto the body and the grave had been filled in, we came back and started preparing the funeral meal. Mary and I managed to pool sufficient money to buy food and wine for all the guests, and it went off very well.
Now there are days of mourning to arrange, and ritual cleansing for those who have touched the corpse, but the worst of it is over now, and Joseph is at last free of his aches and pains.
Hannah was a great help today too, and it was good to see Tom talking to Jesus and comforting him.