Blog Archives: October 2008

I must go down to the seas again…

Friday, 24 October 2008

This blog is going to the seaside for a week in the firm conviction that there is more to life than death. It will spend some time hanging out with its embalmer friend, but its small talk is unlikely to be corpsecentric. No, it will be walking the windswept clifftops, eating crab sandwiches at Portland Bill and enjoying bitter beer at The George, a pub which is still a pub. It is unlikely to give expression to thanatological utterance.

Before I go, three things:

First: Note to all florists: ‘Granddad’ has three ‘d’s, a double followed by a single. You’re all missing out a ‘d’ at the moment and losing good revenue as a result.

Second: I apologise for getting under the skin of so many people with my last post about Funeralcare. Everyone professionally involved with funerals lives in beyond-mortal terror of screwing up. We know that if it can happen it will and, therefore, at some time, we will. This is a matter of deep neurosis. I touched a raw nerve. Only this morning it only took me just half a mile to convince myself that I was driving to the wrong crematorium. I wasn’t — but you know how it goes.

What am I doing, tweaking Funeralcare’s tail like this? It all started with my first post about them, and their subsequent non-response. Read what the latest TUC Congress said about them here. I have to confess that I hate a good fight, it’s not what I do. But you may forgive me for feeling narked. The GMB union has promised me a response, and I’ll post that when it comes in.

Third: The rejection of a mainstream religious funeral by those who are not religious, or have their own, personal spiritual beliefs, has made it necessary for them to re-invent the funeral. And the central problem facing those who want to re-invent funerals is this: if the funeral cannot look forwards and contemplate the person who has died enjoying a blissfest in eternity, then what on earth can it do? People who have not adopted or evolved a belief system which explains death have to make sense of it their own way, sometimes from scratch.

I’ve just read a very well-written and thoughtful blog post on the state of the modern funeral. It will strike a chord with many of you. Here’s an extract:

We stopped talking about death, judgment, heaven, and hell. We have become Egyptian in our attitude towards death and the afterlife, thinking our deceased’s coffin needs to be filled with the things they enjoyed in this life: their favorite cigarettes, romance novels, transistor radio, etc. We allow the white funeral pall, which recalls baptismal dignity, to be replaced by things like a sport jersey or some other keepsake.

He is a priest. He has no doubt what a funeral is for. He believes that the doctrine and decorum of a religious funeral breathe a still, small voice of calm and certainty upon disorderly feelings of grief and loss. Here’s how he defines some modern attitudes:

[Mourners] don’t see any need (much less the necessity) to pray for the soul of a deceased person. Nor do they see their need (or the deceased’s need) for the Church’s funeral rites. This gets replaced by their own personal version of the same. In short, the funeral is about THEM, and their grief at the loss of the deceased.

Read the entire post here. It will nourish your thinking. I’m not telling you what I think.

For now, “all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying / And the flung spray and the blown spume and the sea gulls crying.”

Back with you all soon.

How different from US

Thursday, 23 October 2008

The effects of the crash have yet fully to register. Brits have always had a puritanical, penitential streak, a disposition to pare cheese, save string, make do and mend. Those who will be wiped out are to be pitied. The rest of us, I think, are strangely relieved that it’s all over, happy to get back to self-reliance and common sense. We remind ourselves that the best things in life are recession-proof. The beauties of nature outshine the thrill of the mall.


Bad news is good news for the press; our papers are making merry feeding our schadenfreude and our fear. They’ve picked up on it in the US and it’s generated this headline in Time: Corpses Pile Up Amid Britain’s Financial Crisis.


You hadn’t noticed? It goes like this. Families on benefits are encountering delays in getting Social Fund payments for their funerals. Some funeral directors, unwilling to carry debt, are refusing to go ahead with funeral arrangements until they have been paid. It has taken nine weeks to hold a funeral for a Shrewsbury man. Questions have been asked in the House. The spectre of the Winter of Discontent stalks our streets.


In point of boring fact, this situation predates the crash. It affects only 27,000 funerals a year. So the chances of a corpse pile-up in your neighbourhood are bathetically less than nil.


The hullabaloo raises interesting questions about funeral costs, though, at a time when everyone will be interested in cheaper funerals. The Social Fund will cough up around £700 towards the funeral director’s bill and around £1,000 for disbursements. In all, that’s a few hundred pounds short of the cost of a typical funeral. Need a funeral cost this much? Two factors, in particular, make funerals arguably more expensive then they ought to be.


The first is the d-word, that peculiar word we apply only to the very old and the dead: dignity. If a funeral does not feature a hearse, bearers, shop flowers atop the coffin and a be-toppered undertaker walking in front of the cortege, most people would reckon that to be shabby rather than simple. Funeral directors could offer a service that costs less than £700, but there’d be little uptake. What’s more, their pricing structures are such that they’d struggle to make a decent profit if they did.


It is interesting to see how, in the US, the huge cost of a ‘traditional’ funeral — cosmetised, casketed body, visitation, service, whole body burial in a vault — has spawned its polar opposite, direct cremation, whereby the body is cremated as soon after death as statutorily possible (usually 24 hours) and the ashes returned to the family. Thus Florida Direct Cremation can offer to transport the body, coffin it, do all the paperwork and cremate it for an all-in price of $395. In sinking, shrinking British pounds that works out at just £225.76. Most charge around $900 — £500.


Direct cremation does not preclude a funeral, but it is likely to be a funeral not for a body but for its ashes. The family chooses its venue. In the UK we are culturally conditioned to believe that a funeral for a body is indispensable. Could that change?


How much does cremating a body actually cost in terms of fuel and capital costs?  I ought to find out; perhaps a helpful person will tell me. It’s bound to be more in the UK than it is in the US because we cremate so inefficiently. And this brings me to my second factor: because a UK crematorium is both a ceremonial space in which to hold funerary rites and also a place where the dead are burned, it gets all that heat up to burn far fewer bodies than it could — a very un-green way of doing things. A US crematory will burn bodies round the clock if necessary.


The UK model doesn’t work. More time is given to dead bodies than they need, too little to mourners. The outcome looks and feels like a production line. Not for the business of cremation it isn’t.  


It would make more sense for bodies to be burned in a dedicated plant serving several ceremonial spaces. Given the lack of interest most people show in what happens after the curtains close, it would seem to be immaterial if a body is burned a few feet away from the ceremonial space or a few miles. Those few who do wish to see everything through and done properly could still go and do so — as they do in the US. Sure, they would find themselves in an industrial environment, but scarcely more so than behind the scenes at a crem.


Should local authorities feel obliged to provide a ceremonial spaces? Or crematories? I can’t see why. But they’d hate to give up their crematoria because they yield good profits, which subsidise the costs of cemetery maintenance — and, therefore, of burial. In this way, local authorities are able to compete unfairly with natural burial grounds run by the private sector. They further penalise cremation clients in order to fund unrelated projects. It’s a pity many of them don’t spend a little of that money on refurbishing their crem toilets.


Vested interests oppose change. Funerals cost more than they ought.


And the funeral directors? Are they making more than they ought? No. They must comply, both, with things as they are and with the wishes of their clients. If funerals cost more than they need, that’s not their fault. Having in mind what they do, they are entitled to a decent living.


As I go to press I can’t help thinking my argument is flawed. It is reassuring to know that my loyal readers will not hesitate to pounce. 

Fobbed off and let down

Friday, 17 October 2008

There’s no rule of thumb that will help us find a good funeral director.

The soulless efficiency of the firm that sells us car insurance suits us very well so long as it’s the cheapest. But when someone has died, what we look for is an intensely personal service, and it naturally seems most likely that we’ll get that from a little independent family business rather than from a branch of one of the conglomerates (Dignity and the Co-ops) or a chain of funeral directors. The big boys know this, they know that the perception is that big equals impersonal and soulless, and that is why, when they acquire a family business, they like to go on trading misleadingly under the old family name.

If they believed that they were doing the best possible job they’d have the confidence to proclaim UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT! The fact that they don’t tells us something, doesn’t it?

And yet, as a great sage of the industry observed to me recently, there are good big ‘uns and bad little ‘uns — and the other way about. Yes, there are some nasty little tykes out there, and some really top-notch branches of the big ‘uns.

We get very few scandals in the UK funeral industry but we do get muddles and screw-ups. It is famous in the industry that these are normally committed by the Co-ops. Here’s an example:

On 1 September this year the funeral for a Leeds woman, a stickler, in life, for punctuality, was arranged by Co-op Funeralcare for 2.20 at Lawnswood crematorium. The hearse and 2 limousines didn’t get to her daughter Kathleen Gamble’s house until 2.40. Fortunately, the crem was able to accommodate the delay. On a busy day, it wouldn’t. Mrs Gamble was furious: “Somebody should be held accountable for making a really sad day for us even more traumatic, emotional and stressful. My mother was never late for anything and then she turned up late to her own funeral.”

There’s Greenwich Mean Time and there’s Funeral Directors’ Time. FDT makes GMT look sloppy and inexact. Funeral directors, you’ll be interested to know, obsess about time. When, on a recent Holby, the cortege for a 12 o’clock funeral pulled up at a quarter to, all the watching undertakers dived behind their sofas, heads in hands. A well run cortege arrives bang on the dot, no earlier, no later. The Co-op’s crime in Leeds was, in funeralworld, well, horrible.

Funeralcare has a multitude of administrative systems designed to make its operation (literally) idiot-proof. In this case, they blamed their howler on a “communication breakdown”. We can only speculate on what really happened. It looks as if the idiots won.

Could the little independent family firm for whose clients I lead funerals have committed such a howler? Absolutely not. How do I know? Because, simply, I know how much they care. Every funeral is, for them, an event, not just another job.

Even a moron-proof admin system will not be proof against an employee who doesn’t care enough or is too busy.

When Funeralcare finally got around to explaining their cock up to Mrs Gamble more than three weeks later, this was her response: “Apparently plans are in place to prevent it from happening again but I just don’t believe them. We feel completely fobbed off and let down.”

We know how she feels. This blog has invited Funeralcare on three occasions to write and tell us about its ethos and, despite promising to do so, it has failed. It is incredible that, given a free opportunity to target consumers, talk about itself and get us all to love it, Funeralcare goes on passing up the chance, falling into contempt and letting down its best employees into the bargain.

To what do we ascribe this? Arrogance? Complacency? Stupidity?

Let’s be kind. Let’s put it down to a “communications breakdown” and hope that “plans are in place to prevent it from happening again”. The only reason why this blog presents a one-sided view of Funeralcare is because they won’t rise to their defence. I believe that there are two sides to this story. Readers will form their own judgement.

For the fourth time I shall now write to Funeralcare, asking them to respond, refute — and advertise for free.

Blazing row

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

“The Hindus of Britain have never asked for anything,” says Mr Gai of the Anglo-Asian Friendship Society “but we’re not asking for much, just to cremate our loved ones in the way our religion says it must be done.”

The issue of open-air cremation is hotting up as Newcastle-based Mr Gai prepares to go the High Court next month to demand the right to have his body disposed of in accordance with his religious beliefs.

He’s got precedents on his side. In 1884 the colourful Dr William Price cremated his five month-old son Jesus Christ on an open-air pyre. He was prosecuted, and acquitted on the grounds that cremation is not illegal if it creates no nuisance. When he died, Dr Price himself went up in smoke on top of two tons of coal. His successful test of the law was the green flag the Cremation Society was waiting for. Britain’s first-ever crematorium, at Woking, was in business at last, its first customer the pioneering (if inert) Mrs Pickersgill.

There are other precedents. You can read about them here.

Mr Gai’s challenge will, doubtless, come down to an evaluation of both the aesthetic and environmental effects of outdoor cremation. It is not long since measures to control foot and mouth disease in the UK blackened the sun and cloaked the countryside with the smoke and stench of burning cattle carcases, so no problem there. But those innocent beasts did not have teeth filled with mercury amalgam, and vaporised mercury is particularly nasty emission.

Invocation of a Supreme Being is often an effective way of bypassing standard procedures, leaving those who defer either to no deity, or to one with no political clout, in second-class-citizen position. There was a row last month over a man whose body couldn’t be buried on a Saturday because he wasn’t a Muslim. Read about it here.

Let us hope that Mr Gai will be successful and that the judgement will permit open-air cremation for anyone who opts for it. Does that mean that the derelict shipyards of the Tyne will be replaced by burning ghats?

No — regrettably or otherwise. Open-air cremation is perceived to be a religious requirement only by some Hindus. And for a very few non-Hindus it is an elemental desire which cannot be reduced to a mere reason. It’s a tiny niche market, but one which nevertheless deserves to go the way of its choosing.

Let’s not forget that our ‘bonfire’ derives from the Middle English ‘bone fire’.

Annihilating all that’s made / To a green thought in a green shade

Monday, 13 October 2008

I had to go to Wales to see the burial ground at Usk Castle Chase because it’s just been garlanded with the title of Green Burial Ground of the Year 2008.

Wales doesn’t know it’s Wales, of course: that’s simply the name its present tenants have given it. But it is a ‘country’ with a strong sense of national identity, something which makes me feel, as I drive towards the border, defensively prickly. Patriotism is too often a symptom of a bi-polar inferiority complex; its manifestations can be ill-natured. I anticipate being categorised as English. I am not. I am a republic of one.

My misgivings are groundless. The satnav goes on speaking to me in the easy way it always used. The road signs are intelligible, for all that they leave me coming up gasping for vowels. I am charmed by the Welsh way of slowing you down as you approach a sharp corner. Araf, say the signs, and I fancy they sound like the warning bark of a Welsh corgi: Araf-araf! Arrrrr…!

The burial ground is a large sloping meadow flanked on three sides by woods. Beside it is a simple wooden shelter. It is a blissful spot and the most complete contrast to any other burial ground I have ever seen, whether conventional or green. It is the fulfilment of the idea of a natural burial ground, utterly uncompromising.

There is no memorialisation allowed whatsoever, so there’s none of the possessiveness and territoriality that go with a conventional cemetery – no jealous demarcation and personalisation of plots, no visual jabber of talkative, decorated headstones, sunwashed artificial blooms, dead roses in cellophane, blue chippings, solar powered angels. There is no tingle-wingle from a single windchime. Nothing. Nothing at all but birdsong.

Most other natural burial grounds compromise – because grieving people can’t help feeling proprietorial about the grave site — and permit grave markers (albeit biodegradable and non-renewable), gardening of the plot and a certain amount of what green burial pioneer and guru Ken West elegantly terms ‘grieving waste’ – flowers, plastic pots, stuff. The result tends to be tawdry, half-hearted – in the worst cases, a sort of shanty town of the dead.

Usk Castle Chase probably scores as close to full marks as makes no difference according to Ken’s ultra-puritanical criteria of greenness. I was particularly pleased to learn that they bury at 1.3 metres, allowing bodies to rot aerobically and, therefore, environmentally usefully. Too many green grounds bury bodies at six feet; no one’ll never push up daisies from down there.

On the day I was at Usk I saw no freshly turned earth, no evidence at all that anyone has ever been buried there and no visitors. The words of Psalm 103 express it perfectly: As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.

Anyone thinking about natural burial — and 64 per cent of the population say they favour it — needs to consider all this both from their own point of view and also from that of those they will leave behind. It’s not emotionally easy to embrace the idea that it is the whole place which stands as a memorial to each dead resident, but that’s what green burial logically means.

Green burial ought to be about sustainability in terms of the re-use of graves, too, after, say, 40 years. But I suppose no one would buy a plot on those terms. Not yet, anyway.

(The title of this piece quotes from Andrew Marvell’s The Garden.)

Missing the point

Thursday, 9 October 2008

“We don’t want the wedding to be a happy, jolly occasion. No, we want it to be a lament; an elegy for everything lost. Marriage marks a beginning, yes, but also an ending, a parting from family, a distancing from friends, the loss of personal sovereignty, the extinction of the old way of life. If a wedding doesn’t confront these things it isn’t emotionally honest. That’s why we’ve asked everyone to wear black.”

Make sense to you?

“We don’t want the funeral to be a sad, gloomy occasion. No, we want it to be a celebration of life, a time to dwell on happy times. I mean, death isn’t the end, is it? It doesn’t take away what we feel, does it? Our love? Our memories? Death – it’s a new beginning, right? Life goes on. That’s what we want to focus on. That’s why we’ve asked everyone to wear red.”


Fact is, both weddings and funerals are about renunciation and parting. It would perhaps make wedding vows more meaningful if bride and groom publicly acknowledged the new world order and reaffirmed the duty they owe each other and their friends and family. But, primarily, weddings are about celebration – obviously.

Just as funerals are about sadness. Obviously. People overlook that at their cost – their emotional cost. A lot of people, these days.

Tears, laughter; laughter, tears. You get ‘em at weddings and you get ‘em at funerals. You can’t have a good one without both.

Dan emailed from Scotland this morning. He’d seen an account by Matthew Parris of a memorial service that struck him. It struck me, too. Here’s an extract:

Sweet word

So it came as a relief to escape into Derby Cathedral on Saturday to speak at a concert in memory of Jeffery Tillett, whose death I noted on this page earlier this year. A local Conservative politician over many decades, former mayor, many times parliamentary candidate, patron of the arts and licensee of what was for many years Derby’s only gay bar, Jeffery would have loved his concert, led by his surviving partner, Councillor Robin Wood.

Robin read Betjeman’s heart-achingly understated poem, The Cockney Amorist. As he read the final lines…

I will not go to Finsbury Park

The putting course to see

Nor cross the crowded High Road

To Williamsons’ to tea,

For these and all the other things

Were part of you and me.

I love you, oh my darling,

And what I can’t make out

Is why since you have left me

I’m somehow still about.

… I was struck by the almost choking intensity that the word “darling” – though you would have thought it cheapened beyond recovery by overuse – still retains when spoken with passion. Most strong words become weakened by lazy repetition: “disaster”, “chaos”, “lovely”; but a few seem to have an inner integrity that keeps them honest. In the right circumstances, “my darling” really tightens the throat.

Read the entire piece here.

Variety’s the spice of death

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Secular celebrants congratulate themselves on delivering better funerals than ordained ministers. They think they do because people tell them they do.

They risk complacency.

A secular ceremony is often reckoned better than a religious one not so much for what it does as for what it doesn’t. Remove god and the dead person is free to assume the starring role; excise worship and you relieve people of the obligation to go through motions they’d rather not. The positives are all in the negatives.

The resulting ceremony often leaves the audience with nothing to do except sit like obedient puddings and listen to a stranger offer them consolation and tell them all about their dead person, whom the stranger never met. To say that celebrants don’t know who they’re talking about is the precise truth.

When one person speaks from start to finish, pausing only to play a bit of a contemplative Pink Floyd track, a funeral ceremony can soon start flat-lining. Secularists may be unobjectionable, but boy can they be dull. Religious folk, by contrast, get to enjoy great live music, great archaic language, a bit of community singing, a bit of mystery, a celebrant in eye-gladdening fancy dress and even remission from deep vein thrombosis as they kneel down to pray. It’s a far more interactive and sensuous rite.

We can’t blame celebrants when family and friends won’t step up to the lectern and do their bit. It leaves them with no option but to do it all. It’s this that numbers my days as a celebrant. The only good funeral, in my book, is a participative one.

For some time, I have looked to technology to lift secular ceremonies out of monotony. The multimedia presentation, for me, is the future, and Wesley Music, together with people like Louise Harris, are the people to deliver it. I phoned Wesley today to find out how fast things are moving.

They’ve installed equipment at Peterborough and Liverpool, but the funeral directors are being very slow to recommend it. Nothing new there; you’ll rarely find the dismal trade at the cutting edge. But a far bigger brake to progress is, it seems, the fraught matter of copyright. Scan in a wedding photo and you infringe the copyright of the photographer who snapped it. Play James Blunt and James wants a slice of the action. There’s a lot of patient negotiation going on about licences.

The plot thickens. You’ve got to weigh up the effect of showing, say, a video clip of the dead person last summer on holiday. Will that be more than people can bear? And if you show that wedding photo, will it reignite a family feud?

As Neil at Wesley wisely puts it, “You’ve got to try and give families what they want, but you’ve also got to warn them of the implications of what they choose.”

Fools rush in. I’m feeling foolish.

It’ll come, though. And it will make all the difference.

Killing time

Monday, 6 October 2008

Wherever dead people go they are freed from time. It’s our apprehension of this that adds to our sense of their elsewhereness and convinces us that they will not be coming back. It adds to the mystery, too. It is difficult to conceive of timeless existence, much easier to explain death in terms of annihilation.

For afterlifer John Donne “there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; no noise nor silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession; no ends or beginnings, but one equal eternity.” I find that poetically meaningful, but I’ve no exact idea what it means.

Close friends and family of just-dead people can similarly find themselves existing in a different time zone, detached, surveying the rushing world around them with anything from bemusement to anger. It’s an idea that I try to incorporate into my funeral ceremonies on the grounds that it’s useful to hold up a mirror to mourners’ feelings. It used to take me far too many words to get my meaning across, and far too many blank-eyed responses impelled me to cut down. Now I say something like, “For the time that we are here this morning, time stands still for you, for a while, and this place belongs entirely to you and to [name of dead person].”

On Friday I went to the funeral of a former work colleague. I was there for her and her only, but it was, of course, impossible also not to backseat drive the ceremony.

The celebrant, a humanist, opened proceedings with a reading about time. I didn’t recognise it, and now I shall have to write and beg him to share it. It said what I have always sought to say.

He went on to conduct the ceremony in what I thought was an exemplary way. I would say enviable as well but I am too aware of my shortcomings to suppose that I could ever be as good as him.

His words were apt. He dressed the dead person in her best light, and why not, on this day of days? It was a happy likeness.

Outstanding, though, was his manner. It was utterly unhurried. In the context of a crematorium this was all the more remarkable because crems are tyrannised by clocks. He detached us from all sense of time even though he was on a tight deadline. What’s more, he detached himself from himself and came across as a person of no interest to us. To perform that well, ego free, unself-conscious, and thereby give the stage wholly to our dead friend, was an extraordinary accomplishment.

I am tempted to draw the conclusion that the hallmark of a memorable funeral is a forgettable celebrant, and the hallmark of a meaningful funeral is a serenity which derives from a sense of time suspended. It’s a bit pat, you’ll have your own view, and it may not do for every funeral, but I think there’s something in it.

The name of the celebrant I heard is Leslie Scrase. If you live close to Bridport, in Dorset, I commend him to you.

A great day out — and a heartfelt apology

Thursday, 2 October 2008

If there was a conference organiser of the year award, it would go to Julie Dunk – technical officer and conference manager of the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management – and her partner, Blue. The reason, probably, why there is no such award is that Julie and Blue would win it every year.


Two days ago I dropped in on the ICCM conference. What a bundle of fun, you may ironically think – and to your surprise you’d be right. Any gathering of any branch of the death industry is as cheery as it has every right to be, and the cem-crem gang are no exception. Thank you for inviting me, Julie!


I went principally to listen to Sandy Sullivan talking about Resomation, the new alternative to cremation. Here’s a process which has been already been smothered in horror by the gutter press. They want to boil dead bodies, they say, then flush them down the drain. It’s not actually like that at all. And it rather overlooks the fact that cremation entails setting fire to dead bodies and flushing them up chimneys.


I missed Sandy. I nattered too long to the excellent Sandra Thomson, and couldn’t get into the lecture hall without creating a disturbance. Later, talking to crem managers, I discovered a lot of interest, and a desire to find out what precisely is in the liquid that is disposed of.


I wanted to meet memorialisers because that’s what I’m researching at the moment. I talked to the lovely people at the FG Marshall stand, and I had an engrossing chat with Jenny Gregson of BRAMM. I hadn’t known till she told me that the reasons people prefer shiny granite headstones are because the surface is easy-clean and they look forever new. Age shall not weary them nor the topple testers condemn.


So many of the good guys and gals of the funeral industry were there, including Wesley Music, who have done so much to improve the quality of funeral ceremonies, and are looking to instal multimedia display equipment in crems, a move which will be transformative. Paul Sinclair, the motorcycle funeral man, was there. He is a rare bundle of utter professionalism and great good humour. Time spent with Paul flies by.


Krysia from the indefatigable Institute of Civil Funerals was there, and it was she who taught me most. She objected in the most passionate terms to my unkindness in this blog to Adrian Pink of the British Institute of Funeral Directors. And while I am happy to contest Adrian’s professional judgement in supposing that a vast parade of hearses makes the funeral industry more approachable (Krysia disagrees with me implacably), I am not happy to think that I may have given him offence because I gather he is an extremely nice man who really is working as hard as he can, from the very best of motives, to make a difference.


Krysia’s word is good enough for me. Adrian, I apologise unreservedly. And I ask you again to talk to this blog and tell us exactly what you are striving to achieve. Here’s a very good opportunity for you to reach an audience of ordinary members of the public who would, I believe, be very interested to hear what you have to say.





Joining up dying to funerals

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

It was very good to hear yesterday from Donna Belk, a home funeral pioneer and enabler in Texas. How I like that term ‘home funeral’ — preferable by far to the UK term ‘DIY funeral’ with all its associations of bodge, muddle, panic and a late night visit from the emergency electrician.

Not that many people in the UK sideline the deathcare professionals and arrange their own funerals. A lot of the early natural death zeal seems to have subsided. In the US the movement is healthy and, it seems, in good hands. “The home funeral movement.” says Donna, “is definitely gaining more attention.” See here.

She goes on to say: “Some people view it as an extension to hospice. We’ve had quite a bit of success in introducing it to hospice organizations in our area.”

I’d love to know more about how UK hospices are joining up end of life care to funeral planning, and empowering carers. I am hoping that someone at St Christopher’s, who have questioned whether funerals are ‘the missing link in palliative care’, is going to ring me up and tell me.

Watch this space, enjoy the videos — and thank you for writing in, Donna.