The Good Funeral Guide Blog

There’s nowt so crap as a crem

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Over in Lufkin, Texas, a new funeral home has opened. What’s different about it? It offers one of those familiar back-to-the-past initiatives which mark progress in funeral service: it’s owner is making his clients aware that they can have the funeral at home – if they want.

“It used to be that before there were funeral homes, the funerals were held at home,” said Philip Snead, CEO and Funeral Director of Snead Linton Funeral Home. “We’re just going back to the way that people used to do business. We do in-home visitations too, and we’re always mindful of health issues.”

I like it. So much better to hold a funeral on familiar ground than up at t’crem. So much better to hold a funeral on your own terms, in your own way. Best of all, it gives families so much more to do (decorating the venue, bringing the food…), and makes it so much easier for them to  run the show, stand up and speak, do away with professional strangers. You don’t have to have the funeral at home, of course. There are community centres, hotels, cricket pavilions…

So forbidding is a crematorium, so alien, so marginalised, so exclusive of everything but death and deathmongers and the grieving bereaved, it is little wonder that people outsource the terrifying ordeal of running the show to someone they’ve briefed.

Says Mr Snead: “Since we’ve been offering the at-home services, people have responded favorably. The older generation grew up seeing their grandparents brought back to the home instead of being taken to a funeral home.”

How many UK funeral directors explore alternative venues with their clients, I wonder?

We will know, as a society, that we are getting funerals right when every crematorium ‘chapel’ in the country stands roofless, derelict and hooted at by owls. Of one thing we may be certain: there’s nowt so crap as a crem.

18 comments on “There’s nowt so crap as a crem

  1. Friday 3rd September 2010 at 11:39 am

    Sadly, most family’s can’t be bothered with planning a different funeral because it’s too daunting and really do welcome to the 20 min service and the restrictions of a tight FD and stranger to give the eulogy at the local crap crem! even most of my friends would just opt for a basic crem service even when they’ve been to the shoddiest of crems and have an event planner extraordinaire as their best friend! it leave me flabbergasted to be honest but acceptance of crap funerals its is deeply rooted into them and they can’t think much past the norm!

    With this in mind I’ve been drifting away into that dream of a Multiplex crem! wow, how amazing would that be? good vision there Jonathan
    Chilterns crem is in a beautiful site, such a waste that more people don’t go just to experience the nice bit of country side.

    As it happens I am planning on a ‘party at the crem’ at Christmas ;O) We’re going to invite all those grumpy arse funeral directors and give them some Christmas cheer by helping promote the Crems facilities with cheese and wine and a few good sentiment films!

    cheers all for saving me from the meteorite and wishing me longevity – in all honestly, I’ve never thought I’d live until I’m a ripe old age anyway, I’ll be glad if i make it past 31 – weird attitude I will admit, but keeps me grateful for being alive and full of ‘fizz’ (lol charles!!). Seen too many young’uns head off the big man in the sky. live every day like it’s your last – and on that note I’m off to scoff some chocolate cake and guzzle extra strong coffee!

    have a good weekend all xx

  2. Jonathan

    Friday 3rd September 2010 at 8:15 am

    Yes, Charles, that’a right, and I reckon a quid a week to stay out of heaven is a bargain.

    Omnia googlamus, eternum vivat.

  3. Thursday 2nd September 2010 at 10:45 pm

    I learned my Latin at St Custard’s, I’ll have you kno. If Google finds it can’t keep up, it’s catch-up time.

    As I understand Jonathan’s reasoning, GM, we all of us (all 2,500) buy one each. Is that right, Jonathan?

    Floreat mathematica!

  4. Jonathan

    Thursday 2nd September 2010 at 9:48 pm

    Tried Googling your Latin phrase and it says: “Tip – search for English results only.”

    Good advice for once, Mr G.

  5. gloriamundi

    Thursday 2nd September 2010 at 9:42 pm

    Look, no-one’s going to syndicate my immortality. On the other hand I can’t afford £2,500 a week. Maybe I do need a bund to join.
    I think I may be missing the point here…

  6. Thursday 2nd September 2010 at 7:26 pm

    How very, very ingenious. Gloria in terrae moribundi eternam! And not just Gloria!

    Does that mathematically stack up, by the way? (I’ve always wondered why one has never done the trick.)

  7. Jonathan

    Thursday 2nd September 2010 at 7:18 pm

    Charles, does that mean if we buy 2,500 lottery tickets every week we’re guarunteed immortality? If so, how about a syndicate between us all?

    We could call ourselves ‘Gloriamoribundi’.

    xx J

  8. Thursday 2nd September 2010 at 9:09 am

    Jonathan, you are a visionary of calibre — a prophet crying out, but not in a wilderness; you hold us rapt. We just love it when something lights your blue touchpaper. Thank you for the image of the children and the bones.

    As a matter of more or less mathematical fact, if you buy a lottery ticket you are 2,500 times more likely to die than to win.

    As for Louise, whose mortality has become such a bone of debate, I am with you, Sir Gloria: I earnestly hope she will be spared a while. She is yet very, very young and full of fizz; she deserves a longer innings unmolested by meteorites.

  9. gloriamundi

    Wednesday 1st September 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Jonathan, you’re welcome to address me as Gloria, but never ever again, “Sir,” or I shall hunt you down and deliver you pre-prepared to your local crem, however dreary it is! I like your idea of a multiplex crem, you could do the whole thing, from coroner through to wild party, in amongst a living community of people. Excellent. But let’s spare Louise that meteorite. Sure, it could happen, but i feel there is such a thing as a strong feeling about natural life spans!

  10. Jonathan

    Wednesday 1st September 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Firstly; don’t assume a young’n will outlive you, Gloria (may I join the others in calling you that, Sir?) – with apologies to you Louise, but any of us could be hit by a meteorite at any moment (well, people buy lottery tickets so it’s not that absurd – more likely than winning, as a matter of fact).

    I’ve always thought a crematorium should be an absolutely lovely, multi-purpose place you’d want to go to for all sorts of reasons, not just ‘committing your loved ones’ (ie: the miserable business of disposing of corpses to stop them rotting, before running to a place of safety).

    Why not use the ceremony space itself to watch films and dance and party, have meetings and lectures and weddings? Why not site it in the middle of a beautiful woodland, with a burial ground and shopping mall where you can get life-affirming things like coffins and food and coffee and alcohol and clothes and fags and entertainment and have your hair and nails done and arrange your holidays and buy a house? Why not have a Costa or Starbucks instead of a waiting room? A play park, an amusement arcade if that’s what amuses people? The crematorium not even as the focus of the place, but just another attraction? An inviting place, an alluring place, a place that says it’s ok to be here among the living where the dead are welcome too? School parties coming to play on the swings and see the cremators having bodies put into them and have a look to see what dead bodies and cremated human bones look like before they’re crushed into ‘ashes’, so no grown-up would ever need to be ignorant about death and have to ask a funeral director what he’s allowed to do about it?

    In short, why even consider yet another dreary, stilted, boring plan for beautiful and nicely designed and organized and decorated crematoria that STILL marginalizes dear old, friendly old, caring, loving, compassionate, healthy, natural, beautiful, vital old Death?

  11. gloriamundi

    Friday 27th August 2010 at 3:30 pm

    H’m. I fear XP is right. This disrupts my takeover programme somewhat. Will have to engage designers and architects for the project instead of demolition teams. The revolution is on hold, and it’s your fault, XP….

    Looking at Chilterns’ website, Louise, I think it’s been nicely refurbished since my mother’s funeral in 1995. It’s certainly a lot more pleasant than the dump I work in over half my time, which hasn’t been refurbished since when. In ’95 we had the standard crem vicar, who just about got the names right, didn’t come to see us or offer to do so, and when I told him I wanted to say a few words, told me in no uncertain terms that I’d better keep it short because we were short of time. Clearly (his) God was in a garrulous mood that day, or He could have shut up and moved aside until I’d finished. Still, silver linings etc – that was one of the seeds that grew into a humanist minister who takes up too much time commenting on other people’s blogs.

    I’ve got a nasty feeling you’re younger than I am Louise, which means I’ll miss your party, dammit.

  12. Friday 27th August 2010 at 10:48 am

    gotta stand up for our local crem at Chilterns and the manager who is a self confessed oldie. He always calls me up to run ideas by me because I’m a ‘young’un’. He’s made the crem as modern and up to date as possible, he’s installed screens, a great sound system, and streaming options. But even he admits – There’s no place like home… (…and the pub) and all the things that were familiar to you in life. Hooraaa for home funerals – I better get cracking and buy myself a million pound home coz my funeral is going to be a massive party :o)

  13. Friday 27th August 2010 at 8:45 am

    Yes, our crems are awful. Yes, people should have the choice of where to hold their ceremony. But can I be contrary? (do bears….)

    Is there not an argument here for making our crems better?

    Take away the awful mid 20th century architecture. Make the time slots longer/more flexible. Improve the speakers and clean the curtains. Replace the pews with comfier seats. Think about the position of the catafalque – why not the centre of the room? (I’m sure something could be done with curtains and trolleys to sort out the technical considerations of this).

    I’m not standing up for crems, necessarily, but making them better means that the family has a greater choice. Rather than having to choose between a nice place involving greater cost (more travelling time etc), or the local crem, the family can chose between a selection of good places and opt for the one that means the most to them.

    Jonathan – sounds like a great funeral – wish I’d been there.

    Rupert – thank you for making me laugh.

  14. Thursday 26th August 2010 at 12:33 pm

    Brilliant Jonathan. One slip of the keyboard there and we’d all be in the sht.

  15. Wednesday 25th August 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Jonathan, you’re back! How I’ve missed you!

    Joan, how I wish I’d known you!

  16. Jonathan

    Wednesday 25th August 2010 at 8:41 pm

    “She wanted to be cremated, so we have to have the funeral at the crematorium.”

    Heard that one before? They said it about Joan before I interjected; “whoa!”

    Joan’s funeral last Thursday started at the pub, all following the hearse the hundred yards to the village hall where we decided at that moment who would carry the coffin, and who would carry Joan’s gin and tonic to put on it.

    She was bipolar, which made her quite mad as well as absolutely reliable by turns, and we all had a really good laugh and a good cry. She swore like a trooper – no, she changed the rules so you’d have to say Gordon Ramsay swears like a little old lady.

    We even had a poem for her, one of hers:

    “Old mother Rudgy-Fudgy had a rough-cut punt,
    not a punt cut rough but a rough-cut punt:
    ragged in the middle, jagged in the front
    was Old Mother Rudgy-Fudgy’s rough-cut punt.”

    One for the compendium, no?

    Sinatra, Bing Crosby and balloons let off into the sky as the hearse went up the hill and we went back to the pub.

    “I wish I’d known you could do something like this when Mum died.”

    “Didn’t the funeral director tell you?” (as if I couldn’t guess.)

    Oh yes, and the cremation – it happened the next day, incidentally.

  17. gloriamundi

    Wednesday 25th August 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Hooray for Rupert. When I take over, all crem chapels will be turned into barn owl reserves as per Charles’ description.

  18. Wednesday 25th August 2010 at 11:57 am

    We are doing a home funeral next Wednesday for a family who felt they didn’t know what to do having had two dreadful family services at crems, one of them ruined by the awful ubiquitous sound system, but wanted to honour their dead mum’s wish to be cremated. The answer seemed obvious. We are taking her coffin around to their house at midday, and collecting her at four. We go to the crem alone.

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