Blog Archives: January 2010

Thomas G Long

Friday, 29 January 2010

Thomas G Long here, one of this blog’s great heroes. Though he comes at funerals from a Christian viewpoint, most of his ideas have a universal application.

He talks about the growing practice in the US to have a funeral without a body (though with ashes, often). That’s not happening to any great extent over here in the UK. But there is a conversation to be had about the role and purpose of a body at a funeral. In most UK crematoria it is set well apart from, and never in the body of, the audience. It is present, but not involved. There’s a lack of conviction in this, a grudging acquiescence, you could say.
Great to hear Mr Long talk of funeral directors (and priests) who get it.

Worst funeral songs #1 – My Way

Thursday, 28 January 2010

There was a little light larking at the Dead Interesting blog last week as we debated best funeral songs for atheists. Off the tops of our heads we came up with You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere – Bob Dylan, No God – Darkest Hour, Heaven is a Place on Earth – Belinda Carlisle, and, from Rupert, a variation on the famous Bob Marley song: No Jesus, No Cry. Perhaps you can think of others?

Then I found this string over at Fluther in response to: What would be an inappropriate song to play at a funeral? Most of them are a little weak, but I have to declare a weakness for We’ve Only Just Begun – Carpenters, Stayin’ Alive – Bee Gees, and Who Wants To Live Forever? – Queen. Bitches Ain’t Shit by Dr Dre sounds a contemporaneously anarchic note much favoured at Brit funerals. But for me the clear winner is: Anything by ABBA. I don’t know that it’s possible to get inappropriater than that. Made me chuckle for the rest of the day. Oh, except that, now I think of it, Take A Chance On Me has got to be a pretty good way to go for an agnostic:

If you need me, let me know, gonna be around

If you’ve got no place to go, if you’re feeling down

If you’re all alone when the pretty birds have flown

Honey I’m still free

But. Seriously. Worst funeral song. It’s got to be My Way, surely? It’s clear in its renunciation of any divinity (otherwise you’d have done it God’s Way). Nothing wrong with that: it’s a defensible existential stance. But what about the message to spouse/partner, family, friends, work colleagues, neighbours – indeed, every else in the entire world? It’s perfectly clear. I didn’t need you. You meant nothing to me. I did it without you. Yes, and in case you were wondering, I was self-created, too.

For what is a man, what has he got?

If not himself, then he has naught

Could there be a more self-regarding, more narcissistic funeral song than this?

I hate it. Got anything worse?

Some conflict of interest, surely?

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Michael Parkinson

HM Government Dignity Ambassador for old people, and…

…the face behind Sun Life funeral plans, which are…

…Co-operative funeral plans.

Tut tut.

Singers for Funerals

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

From their press release:

Singers for Funerals is the brainchild of two professional opera singers, mezzo soprano Kirsty Young and soprano Toni Nunn. Both have performer with professional opera companies across the UK and beyond, including Kirsty’s own company, Hatstand Opera. Between them, the two ladies have sung in over 600 venues in the UK, from cathedrals to tiny parish churches, theatres to town halls, mansions to marquees.

Kirsty Young is keen to bring all that performing experience to provide quality singing for funerals:
“After singing at various funerals over the years, we realised how music could be a great comfort to family members at a difficult time, by celebrating what their loved one enjoyed in life. It is often very difficult for churches to provide a choir to sing at funerals or cremations. Many families therefore had no choice but to use recorded music, where they might have preferred a real ‘live’ singer. We give families back that option for live music, sung by an experienced professional, at an affordable price.”

I like them. Check out their website and their voices here.

Burial depth

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Dave Matthews here, supporting my campaign for shallower burial.

Want the lyric? Find it here.

Still, small voice of calm

Monday, 25 January 2010

The novelist Martin Amis has called for euthanasia booths on street corners, where elderly people can end their lives with “a martini and a medal”.

The author of Time’s Arrow and London Fields even predicts a Britain torn by internal strife in the 2020s if the demographic timebomb of the ageing population is not tackled head-on.

“How is society going to support this silver tsunami?” he asks in an interview in The Sunday Times Magazine today.

“There’ll be a population of demented very old people, like an invasion of terrible immigrants, stinking out the restaurants and cafes and shops. I can imagine a sort of civil war between the old and the young in 10 or 15 years’ time.”

Read the Sunday Times account here. And the Independent account here.

Conspicuous combustion

Monday, 25 January 2010

No new technology devised for the improved disposal of dead bodies has managed to achieve both efficiency and spectacle. There’s a perfectly good reason for this: the brains behind cremation and cryomation and resomation never reckoned spectacle to be a selling point. After all, funerals in the UK are private events, most of them. When they aren’t, it’s the processional that’s spectacular, not the disposal. Where’s the climax point in such a funeral? I’m not at all sure that there is one. Ought there to be? I don’t know. What do you think?

Over in Pattaya, Thailand, there’s a foreigner who records his assorted ramblings in a blog. When I say ramblings, I’m using his word. I’d have gone one better. It’s a good blog, an interesting read, and our rambling foreigner is a good photographer.

He recently witnessed the spectacular funeral pyre of a local Buddhist monk. So long did the construction of the pyre take, the monk had been dead for a year before being able to check out on it. At the top, a pic of the pyre. According to our rambler: “the pyre was an impressive sight, and they had even built in a degree of animation. Yellow tapes extended out on both sides into temple buildings, and unseen hands were pulling them to flap the wings and move the elephant head and trunk.”

Below is a photo of the pyre in its full glory. Read the blog post and see more photos here.


German way of death

Friday, 22 January 2010

Interesting piece in the Earth Times on how Germans are doing funerals differently:

Germany is experiencing a new type of culture of bereavement. People are moving away from the classic funeral with a priest and familiar rituals to one that confronts grief and death in a more personal way.

“Germany’s funeral culture is experiencing fundamental change at the moment,” says Professor Norbert Fischer, a historian at Hamburg University. Fischer says a growing number of people want to decide what happens to their bodies after their death. The bereaved also want a less tense and cramped approach to the funeral ceremony.

This change is expressing itself in a number of very different ways. “On the one hand there is rapid growth in the number of anonymous burials. There is also growth in the type of place where funerals and memorial ceremonies are taking place,” says Fischer. In Germany there are over 80 forested areas, for example, where ecologically friendly urns can be buried beside trees.

There is also an increasing number of common graves. Fans of Hamburg soccer club can now find their final resting place at a plot close to the club’s grounds in Altona district. Members of the club “Garden of Women” can be buried alongside former famous Hamburg residents in Ohlsdorf graveyard.

Read the whole article here. The pic at the top is by Mike Egan.

No Grey Suits

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Another home funeral story today. It’s beautiful. And the account was written by a man. So much of what read about home funerals is by women, so it’s good to have this balance.

It’s called No Grey Suits. Grey Suits = funeral home staff. You can download it as a pdf (all 52 pages of it). Very well written and illustrated. Very empowering. Here’s how its author, Jack Manning, begins:

This book is a love story, or more correctly, a story of love. And how a bunch of friends and family came together to celebrate the end of life and help each other get through the loss of their friend, mother, wife, daughter, sister and colleague.

Download the book here.

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