Blog Archives: October 2010

Lovingly Managed responds to its critics and doubters

Monday, 25 October 2010

When I wrote this post I guessed what the responses were likely to be. The funeral industry does not like to be interloped. Catherine Corless of Lovingly Managed has posted the following comment and, for fear that you might miss it, I am re-posting it here:

Well, we do seem to have ruffled a few feathers although, having said that, it was encouraging to see some positivity filtering through the fog of suspicion and cynicism. We did wonder about replying, as we don’t want to appear defensive – we’ve got nothing to be defensive about  – but in the end, in case people are reading this and getting what we consider to be the wrong impression of us and our business, we felt we would address the points you have all raised.

In response to Rupert Callender

In our funeral package ‘much’ of what we do is not, in fact, done by the funeral director – they don’t register the death, many don’t arrange the venue and catering for any post-funeral hospitality, they don’t ring relatives and friends to inform them of the death or write thank you cards for flowers and donations. (By the way, this isn’t an accusation against funeral directors, just a statement of fact.  The point is, we pick up where the funeral director’s service generally ends).  So yes, ‘some’ elements of our funeral package may be undertaken by the funeral director, or may not be, but ‘much’ is not. When my father died, the funeral director did indeed organise the flowers but I don’t recall them offering to arrange the design and printing of the Order of Service. This is why we have given people a choice in this respect, as we anticipate that flowers will be the remit of most funeral directors whereas the Order of Service is less likely to be. And if the funeral director takes care of both, then, as we state, very clearly, people can request alternative services as part of their package or just ask for them to be removed and we will reduce our price accordingly. The last thing we want to do is create additional costs for the bereaved.

Having said that, if people want additional help that isn’t available from their funeral director, but is provided by us, and they are happy to pay for that extra help, why shouldn’t it be available to them? When you set up your business in 2000, as you state on your web site, what you wanted was ‘to offer an ecological alternative to traditional funerals’. Good for you. You wanted to give people choice. So do we. And you know, somewhere back in the mists of time, when some bright spark decided to relieve people of the task of having to bury their own by offering to do it for them for a fee, I wonder if he was accused of being surplus to requirements and creating an unnecessary expense for the bereaved. After all, up to that point, people must have managed perfectly well without the services of a funeral director. But obviously people wanted this service and were prepared to pay for it because look where we are today.

I take issue with the brick-bat that we are ‘advertising’ for franchisees on our web site; I must have missed the ‘Buy A Franchise NOW!!!” banner in bold, black type on a luminous yellow background. Yes, we have a ‘Franchise opportunities’ tab on our home page which, if people are interested, they can access.  Most commercial organisations have a ‘Vacancies’ page on their web sites. We see our ‘Franchise opportunities’ page as no different to this.

You state on your web site that “we were moved to become funeral directors through our beliefs and experience of bereavement and its aftermath”.  All of us at Lovingly Managed, although our business has gone in a different direction to yours, are in our business for exactly the same reasons as you are in yours.
It is not only the next of kin that can register the death. See http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Governmentcitizensandrights/Death/WhatToDoAfterADeath/DG_10029642
Finally, I’m pleased to hear that you like many of our other services aimed at the elderly so thank you for that.

In response to Jonathan

Below are two quotes which I’ve lifted from Rupert Callender’s web site:
“……thank you, you’re providing such a very special service to people – special because of the love you give to all you do and that love works its miracles.”

“The process of death has often paradoxically been linked with that of birth. I can see those links now. Just as you would want the best midwives and the best experience of giving birth at the start of life, so you would want the same at the end of life. The first welcomes and gently brings a child into the world, the second says goodbye and gently prepares a child for their moving on from this world. Both are acts of the greatest love.”

You may notice that the word ‘love’ crops up in both these testimonials. I guess it’s about knowing your market and giving your market what it wants. Market testing demonstrated that, from the several options presented, our target market overwhelmingly preferred the name Lovingly Managed which is why we selected it as our company name.

Thanks for your story about your son and his girlfriend. I had a really good laugh at that!

In response to Gloriamundi

1) Re. our name, see response to Jonathan.

2) Yes, we are pulling together many services that already exist, but that’s the point. We are also providing other services which don’t currently exist. The total sum of that is a one-stop-shop. At a time when people are already under pressure, they can make a single phone call and we can relieve them of as much or little of that pressure as they wish. And you may have known of situations where an FD organises the post-funeral hospitality and live music out of ‘kindness’, but how many situations? I can’t believe that it happens very often and why should it? In my experience, it’s not generally part of an FD’s core service offering and they’re not charities. They’re businesses. And what about all the people whose FDs don’t provide these services out of ‘kindness’? Are they supposed to be left swinging in the wind? Well, now they have options.

You also seem to have a very one dimensional view as to what people’s situations are when they or a family member dies which is far removed from the reality for many. You state that the services we provide “many – most – people can actually do for themselves, or their friends/family can or should.” What exactly is a dead person supposed to do for him or herself?; and regardless of the fact that many families could do what we do, many don’t want to and others really can’t, for any number of reasons, and it’s certainly not up to anyone else to say they ‘should’ do it if their preference is to pay someone else to do it.

Another thing you say is that “It’ll be a sad day when friends and family don’t offer this sort of support – I know there are people who die utterly alone, and there may be more in future – but it’s not that common, is it?”

You’re right.  The number of people dying absolutely alone is, at the moment, small but it is increasing.  However, I’m sorry to say that the ‘sad’ day of family and friends not offering this sort of support is already here and not necessarily because they don’t want to but often because they’re not able to, either because they live too far away, they’re old themselves or they may be too ill. As our population continues to age, families become increasingly dispersed and the number of people living alone continues to increase, more and more people are going to face this type of situation.

A few pertinent statistics:

Research by Dignity in Dying found that almost 25% of Welsh people live alone, the highest proportion in the UK.  recent report by WRVS, entitled Home Alone1, predicted that by 2021, the
Office of National Statistics:

Over the last 25 years the percentage of the population aged 65 and over increased from 15 per cent in 1984 to 16 per cent in 2009, an increase of 1.7 million people. By 2034, 23 per cent of the population is projected to be aged 65 and over. The fastest population increase has been in the number of those aged 85 and over, the “oldest old”. In 1984, there were around 660,000 people in the UK aged 85 and over. Since then the numbers have more than doubled reaching 1.4 million in 2009. By 2034 the number of people aged 85 and over is projected to be 2.5 times larger than in 2009, reaching 3.5 million and accounting for 5 per cent of the total population.

Older women are more likely than older men to live alone and the percentage increases with advancing age. In 2008 in Great Britain, 30 per cent of women aged 65 to 74 lived alone compared to 20 per cent of men in this age group; and for those aged 75 and over this increases to 63 per cent and 35 per cent respectively.

You make the point that ‘I think what we need are local networks of information and support, not a franchised national service.’ There are already many local networks of information and support, which are essentially franchised national services without the commercial element e.g. Age UK, Cruse, but none are offering what we are.  You also say that “The accompanying/supporting/house clearing stuff really should be done locally.” Well, it is being done locally across South Wales, by us, and if our business grows as we hope, then Lovingly Managed franchisees will be providing the service ‘locally’ across the UK.

I get the impression that your real objection to our business is the very fact that it’s a commercial business and not a charity.  Further evidence of this comes from you saying that we are “adding to the expense unnecessarily.” Unnecessary for who, exactly? Certainly not for the son/daughter living abroad who has to get back to their family and job and has no time to clear their parent’s home and get the house on the market and can’t afford to be flying back and forth. At the beginning of your comments you accuse us of making sweeping statements; I have to say the words pot, kettle and black come to mind. I mean, who are you to decide for everyone what is an unnecessary expense?

Finally, you say ‘But I’m not tutting.’  Really?  You could’ve fooled me!

In response to Death Matters

T
o be honest, I’m not sure what you were saying but I think the premise is that if people aren’t stressed out and struggling to cope then they don’t experience the correct degree of loss. Says who? If people want the experience made easier for them then that’s their choice. It’s not up to anyone else to dictate to them what help they should or shouldn’t receive in order to adhere to some arbitrary, subjective standard on what makes a bereavement ‘too easy’. Having said that, I totally disagree with your sentiment, anyway. To say that helping people deal with the practical aspects of death means their sense of loss is somehow minimised is, to my mind, offensive. It’s like saying if a woman has a baby with the aid of drugs then she doesn’t really experience the wonder of giving birth because she hasn’t suffered enough pain. As a woman who, during the course of a 39 hour labour ended up having every drug going, I can assure you that this couldn’t be further from the truth.

In response to Graveyard Bunny and Gloriamundi

How ‘delightfully’ commercially naïve of you not to realise that ‘elderly escort service’, far from being a blunder, was a totally calculated decision to drive web site traffic. After all, we are trying to raise awareness of our company and this was just one means to an end. Who’s to say that a man searching for an escort service doesn’t also have an elderly parent who he might want help with, either then or at some point in the future? And if he’s aware of our web site, he knows we exist and might just tell his friends about us.  Apparently our company has been mentioned on a forum on West Ham’s web site. Now how did that supporter find out about us, I wonder?

That’s it. If we’ve offended, apologies. It’s not personal but we weren’t about to let these comments pass without presenting our point of view.

BLOG OFF. This blog is going to take a few days’ holiday on its beloved island in da sun — so you can have a few days’ holiday from it. See you next Monday. Have a great week!

Letting go

Friday, 22 October 2010

Rhoda Partridge took up painting when she was 70. Now 90 she’s still hard at it. Her spirited life has also embraced scuba diving, gliding and ceramics.

In an interview in this month’s Oldie magazine she is asked:

Do you find that after 70 years you live in the shadow of death?

She replies:

Oh pouf! Pocket full of crap! I think it could even be a good experience. We are beginning to be better about death, allowing people to die quietly, not to stick needles and drips in them. It’s important that the person who’s dying is allowed to die, that you hold their hand, tell them you love them and let them go. One of my sons has promised to look after me through my death. I would like all my children to come and talk to me one at a time. But I don’t want them all moaning around me.


Shovel-and-shoulder work

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The words that follow are by Thomas Lynch, a hero to so many of us in the UK. (In the US there are those who reckon him paternalistic, but we don’t need to go into that. It’s complicated.)

Funerals are about the living and the dead — the talk and the traffic between them … in the face of mortality we need to stand and look, watch and wonder, listen and remember … This is what we do funerals for — not only to dispose of our dead, but to bear witness to their lives and times among us, to affirm the difference their living and dying makes among kin and community, and to provide a vehicle for the healthy expression of grief and faith, hope and wonder. The value of a funeral proceeds neither from how much we spend nor from how little. A death in the family is an existential event, not only or entirely a medical, emotional, religious or retail one.

“An act of sacred community theater,” Thomas Long calls the funeral — this “transporting” of the dead from this life to the next. “We move them to a further shore. Everyone has a part in this drama.” Long — theologian, writer, thinker and minister — speaks about the need for “a sacred text, sacred community and sacred space,” to process the deaths of “sacred persons.” The dead get to the grave or fire or tomb while the living get to the edge of a life they must learn to live without those loved ones. The transport is ritual, ceremonial, an amalgam of metaphor and reality, image and imagination, process and procession, text and scene set, script and silence, witness and participation — theater, “sacred theater,” indeed.

“Once you put a dead body in the room, you can talk about anything,” Alan Ball [creator of the HBO show Six Feet Under] wrote to me once in a note.

Source

Ghoul, calm and collected

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

For a death-averse people who shut their eyes tight to mortality, the Halloween look is not a good look. But children thrill to it; caring parents wickedly, gigglingly co-conspire.  Much of the imagery is so graphically horrifying I’d have thought it would reduce children (and some adults) to lasting gibbering mental breakdown. But it doesn’t. May we infer that most people do actually have a far more sophisticated and fully assimilated comprehension of death than  they are customarily credited with? And that Halloween teaches children more about death than we think?

If so, you will enjoy this delicious recipe for sugar skulls from the excellent Skull-A-Day.


The feminine touch

Monday, 18 October 2010

According to Hindu custom it has always been the duty of the eldest son or senior male relative to light a funeral pyre. Here in Britain, it is very rare indeed for a female to be one of the small group to witness a dead person being loaded into the cremator.

But, I was interested to read, the times they are a-changing.

Really getting real

Monday, 18 October 2010

When Americans decide to do things differently, it seems to me, they make a clean break. Brits, on the other hand, carry over a lot of familiar stuff from the past. I mean, how often does a natural burial ground witness a scene like this?

And which has the courage of its environmental convictions and buries at three feet?

Read the story in the Washington Post.

(Beautiful shrouds available from the UK here.)

Sweet story

Friday, 15 October 2010

Very sweet story from New Zealand:

An elderly Levin couple together for more than 60 years died within hours of each other in circumstances that Shakespeare could not have written better, their daughter says.

With only hours to live, Marion Bray-Gunn, 84, was being taken from Palmerston North hospital on Tuesday so she could die beside husband Sydney, who was also fading at Horowhenua Hospital.

But the World War II veteran, 86, died from natural causes an hour before she arrived.

Mrs Bray-Gunn died next to her husband five hours later, surrounded by family.

Daughter Marlene Dunsmore, 62, said the circumstances were “just wonderful for us as a family, absolutely surreal”.

Full story here.

Hat-tip to Pam Vetter.

Clothes line

Friday, 15 October 2010

When people bring the clothes to the funeral home that they want their dead person dressed in they rarely bring them in a nice little suitcase or smart receptacle, they mostly bring them in a crumpled carrier bag.

What does this say?

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