I must go down to the seas again…

Charles Cowling

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.

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