I’d hoped to have a sprightly little post for you yesterday on the matter of funeral costs. The trade body representing the interests of independent funeral directors, Saif, commissioned Ipsos MORI (how apt, that MORI!) to research funeral directors’ charges. A friendly funeral director emailed me to tell he’d just got the report, would I like him to send it to me? I told him not to go to the trouble: I’d get it from Saif itself.
I rang Saif on Monday afternoon. I was promised the report by email. Nothing. I rang in a reminderly way on Tuesday morning and was promised a call back. Nothing. I rang once more in the afternoon. My request was being scrutinised, I was told, by the brightest and best at Saif, and the conclusion seemed to be that the Good Funeral Guide, a resource for consumers, dammit, is reckoned not to be a fit repository for such information. It seems that they don’t like references to “your dead person”. The only acceptable term for a dead person is, I am told, “the deceased.” I am still waiting for official confirmation of this from someone called Alan, and I confidently expect to have to wait ’til the Crack of Doom itself.
I dislike velveteen euphemisms that insulate us from the reality of things. I especially dislike that hush-and-awe, neuter word “deceased”, the way it slithers and hisses. This is not everybody’s position. There is no vocabulary that will satisfy all. Too bad. We use words in this country both to assign meaning and to set ourselves apart, and there’s something both marvellous and detestable about the ways in which we do it. What a pity it is that we cannot use the plain words of our language to stake our place in neutral territory. As things are, meaning comes in shades of the most delicate, deadly hues. I shut the door, she closes it. We inhabit different worlds.
Everybody’s friend is nobody’s friend. Against the sanctimonious self-rightousness of Saif I would set the words of one O Hetreed, who wrote this to me: “Thank you for this excellent website. It’s been really helpful at a difficult point and refreshingly free of cant and bogus solemnity.” I was even more gratified when I found out who O Hetreed actually is.
I’m cross with Saif and disappointed. And amused, of course. I know what the Ipsos MORI report says, but I’m not telling you. Do you find yourself beginning to suppose that it can only reveal that independent funeral directors exhibit an appetite for exploitation which borders on depravity? I couldn’t possibly comment.