Everyone agrees that choice in funeral arrangements is a good thing. Even the UK’s most Jurassic undertakers are nodding their heads fervently on this one. They’ve come round at last (sort of). It’s the mantra in Funeralland: Personalisation x 3 (I can’t be bothered to type it).
There’s money in it, of course. Because personalisation (x3) can merely = accessorisation (x3). Instead of a bog standard box, why not this lovely one here, look, emblazoned with bluebells and kingfishers and a steam locomotive at 3x the price? There are lots of ways to personalise. We know what they are. They overlook making your own box, a very useful exercise in grief therapy. They overlook picking flowers from your own garden, not even tying them at the stems, and taking them home after, if it was a cremation.
There’s pressure in personalisation. The media love to pick up on wacky funerals, outrageous dress codes, iconoclastic songs. Trad is so last century, so gloomy, so boring.
This exerts an expectation. “So what are we going to do? He loved his veg, especially his leeks, so, er, let’s tell everyone to dress up as a leek??” There’s a tyranny taking hold.
There’s personalisation (x3) and there’s costly and unnecessary distraction (x3).
So it’s really good, this morning, to publish this post (the first of many, I hope) by Maggie Brinklow, a celebrant, member of the Association of Independent Celebrants (AOIC), who is keen to broaden her skills to include body preparation. She hopes shortly to do a course with the distinguished Mark Elliott, one of the best in his field, and I hope she’ll tell us all about that. Maggie says “I am passionate about putting the funeral back in the hands of the family.” She reminds us that trad has legs.
What makes a good funeral?
I’ve just got back home from a funeral. Nothing unusual in that – I’ve been to so many family funerals that I’ve lost count. I’ve also acted as a celebrant at quite a few as well, so what made this one any different? Well, this is the first funeral where I acted as the Funeral Arranger, working on behalf of a small independent company. It wasn’t anything special, a church service followed by interment in the local cemetery – a hearse and limo, the usual flowers and mourning dress and then back to the house for the ‘do’.
So, why am I writing about it? Well, it got me thinking. What makes a good funeral? Is it the gold coffin with stretch hummers and 300 mourners or, is it the small intimate gathering, the cardboard coffin pulled on a hand bier while the children sing, before being laid to rest at a woodland site? For me, it’s both and neither of these options – personally I’d like people to take up the alternative ideas, but it’s not my decision. I offered the family the different venue, transport, coffin etc etc but, in the end, the traditional route was the right one for them.
Like I said, today’s funeral was nothing unusual, but it was what the family wanted, and really, isn’t that what it’s all about?