The Good Funeral Guide Blog

The undertaker’s understrapper

Friday, 17 September 2010

When my friend PoshUndertaker first opened to the public, business was slow. When he went on holiday he’d ask me to mind the shop for him. I’d say yes like a shot, confident that nothing more would come in than a lot of importunate calls from people flogging stuff. There was always the possibility, of course, that a dead person would come knocking, and if I thought about it I shuddered. It was a terror easily dispelled by counting quickly to ten.

Time went by. PoshUndertaker got a little busier. Still I said yes to minding the shop. And the day came, as you have already guessed, when, as he was passing over the Channel in his jet plane, death walked in.

A nearby FD, CrossUndertaker, looked after the body while I set about the paperwork. The family wanted to visit, so I arranged for them to come to the quiet room of a religious community a few miles distant. Thus began the most exciting part of what was a tremendously nailbiting week. I picked up the body from CrossUndertaker and enjoyed the new sensation of sailing through the countryside with a dead person on board. I managed somehow to unload the coffin onto the spindly trolley at the top of a steep concrete path in full view of two lanes of slowly moving traffic. I removed the lid and, dismayed by the bleakness of the interior, rushed into town and bought yards of white cotton. By tucking it underneath my dead person and allowing it to cascade down the sides of the coffin I managed to make a very presentable job. The family came moments later and were well pleased.

I won’t bore you with the rest – it’s a long and bumpy story.

All I want to report this morning is that it’s happened again. Except that this time the dead person came knocking before PoshUndertaker left for his scheduled holiday. All I have to do is get the dead person to the crem on time next Wednesday and keep an eye on the filing of crem forms, music, etc. I’m off in a moment to do a full recce, meet the family and celebrant and check times, distances, likely obstructions.

And I tell you this because it’s bound to give me a certain credibility, yes? Sure, I spend a lot of time on the sidelines scribbling critically while the players do all the work. But once in a while I have my hour (one far fierce hour and sweet). And though I could never be an undertaker (because you can’t put in what god left out), it’s salutary to get a periodic reality check.

3 comments on “The undertaker’s understrapper

  1. Friday 24th September 2010 at 10:23 am

    Charles, it makes me wish the same for myself! Really.

  2. Thursday 23rd September 2010 at 1:58 pm

    […] I’ll never make a funeral director. Yesterday’s experience reinforced that. No presence of mind. No eye for detail. In any case, I like things to hang loose, come a little unravelled if they will. But the mourning public likes to be held in a reassuring grip, I was reminded. They like someone to look to; someone commanding. To what extent this is a conditioned response, the product of strict timetabling brought about by the exacting demands of crematoria, I don’t know. But there is a decidedly British funeral behaviour and there’s more to it than Britishness. It goes with a lot of glancing at watches. Everyone except the dead guy, that is. […]

  3. gloriamundi

    Thursday 23rd September 2010 at 8:04 am

    Well I’m mighty impressed, Charles, bravo, hats off not only to “the deceased” (did you find an irrestable urge to slip into the jargon none of us much like?) but to you.

  4. Paul Hensby

    Friday 17th September 2010 at 2:38 pm

    Very nicely written…interesting observations too.

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