Thoughts of a funeral-goer

Charles Cowling

 

 

Posted by Lyra Mollington

 

Not long after I had decided on a burial shroud made of wool, lo and behold, up pops a woollen coffin – at the funeral of an elderly lady who loved knitting!  I have to confess that, yet again, I did not know the deceased.  I happened to be in the graveyard when I saw the cortege coming through the gates towards the crematorium chapel.  Daisy was with me and we both slipped in at the back.  Well, I slipped in and Daisy reluctantly followed knowing it was her best chance of a lift home.

Not only was it a woollen coffin, balls of wool and knitting needles had been cleverly incorporated into the floral display.  Luckily the curtains weren’t closed so, when everyone had left, I got my digital camera out whilst Daisy stood anxiously by the door.  She really shouldn’t have worried.  As I pointed out to her later, there are some advantages to being a smartly dressed lady of a certain age.  Never am I asked questions such as, ‘What are you doing?’ Or, ‘Who said you were allowed in here?’ Or even, ‘Why are you taking photographs of the coffin of a complete stranger?’ In any case, by the time the funeral director returned to retrieve the flowers, the camera was back in my handbag and I had taken three photos.  And (hurrah!) one was in focus.  Seb tells me that I’m too impatient – apparently my auto setting is automatic not instant – but in the heat of the moment it’s difficult not to get carried away. 

 

 

Imagine my surprise when only three days later, I attended another funeral with an equally imaginative yet tasteful floral tribute.  This time, it was for a gentleman who was passionate about gardening.  He spent as much time as possible in his allotment where he grew all manner of vegetables.  Yes, you’ve guessed it – the florists best place to buy generic cialis (such creative people) had incorporated veg into the floral arrangement!  There was a lovely assortment including curly kale and purple sprouting broccoli.  Sadly, I was unable to take a photograph.  Even I draw the line at sneaking behind the curtains. 

It’s fairly common for people to place objects on top of the coffin.  I’ve seen flat caps, medals, teddy bears, hip flasks and a tea pot, but recently I’ve noticed that more people are thinking outside the catalogue when it comes to ordering flowers.  However, I’m not so keen on those displays where the flowers are cut and stuck together to resemble an object.  Or, even worse, when they have been sprayed with paint to achieve the desired effect.  Nevertheless, I do admire the skill of the person who can make Paddington Bear out of a giant block of oasis and an assortment of flower heads.

Which brings me on to flowers in the shape of letters spelling out MUM, DAD and NAN.  I’ll admit that when I first started seeing flower-names I was dreadfully stuck-up about it.  Saying it with flowers was being taken too literally.  But rather like digital television and the internet, I have warmed to the idea.  There was no doubting their impact when, on my recent tour of the crematorium, I saw GRANDDAUGHTER sitting on the flower terrace. 

Then, two days ago, I saw flowers spelling out a rude word in the back of a passing hearse.  I am sure that such things are unremarkable to the broad-minded readers of the GFG blog.  However, I was taken aback – not what Mr Chunky and I were expecting to see on our way to Barnes Common!

And then I realised I was smiling.  Just as I had smiled when I saw Pat’s balls of wool and Victor’s turnips.  And isn’t that how we want to remember the people we love – with a smile?  

 

16 thoughts on “Thoughts of a funeral-goer

  1. Flowers That Speak « The Inspired Funeral

    […] I must share this photograph of a casket spray originally published on the British “Good Funeral Guide” website. […]


  2. Charles Cowling
    Charles

    David, that is a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it.

    Quite so, GM. I’d add generic, and at odds with the idea of a person-centred funeral.


    Charles Cowling
  3. Charles Cowling
    Gloria Mundi

    Flowers from the garden, ideal, I think, part of the person’s life. Someone said recently “but it’s the depths of winter!” What could be lovelier that russet beech leaves and wet ivy? Part of a life and a locality, rather than something wildly expensive and flown in from somewhere quite else.


    Charles Cowling
  4. Charles Cowling
    David Holmes

    Yes Lyra – they know I have a rebellious mischievous nature. It would help lighten the mood. Not sure if they will actually do it of course!

    Recently I left our funeral home in a loaded hearse for a house with no flowers at all. This is quite unusual and inevitably it does look a little bare. On arrival at the deceased’s house, her husband spent a few minutes gathering a selection from their lovely garden. I placed them on and around the coffin and we proceeded with the funeral. I couldn’t help admiring them. Simple as they were, I thought they were probably the nicest I had ever seen. Their garden clearly meant a lot to them and the almost casual way he instinctively gathered them seemed totally appropriate and very personal.


    Charles Cowling
  5. Charles Cowling
    Lyra Mollington

    I have inadvertently opened an environmental can of worms (a recyclable can I hasten to add). It’s a tricky one. I witnessed a lovely moment after one funeral last year: several children released red balloons for their Granddad with messages attached. But no different from dropping litter. I also love to see those night-sky lanterns but these are dangerous to wildlife. (Although Seb tells me that there are versions of these that are not as damaging.)
    David – I admire your sense of humour but do your family agree that the floral tribute you have requested would be fitting?


    Charles Cowling
  6. Charles Cowling
    Vale

    I want to speak up for useless extravagant gestures and – even – waste.

    I don’t think we should feel bad about flowers of any sort – they are ritual gestures and, if they die quickly after the ceremony, well, so what. They have done their job.

    Of course, local is better. Organic if you can. Alternatives to plastic if we can find it – but then like vikings burning boats or pot latch chieftans flinging our wealth into the waters why not revel in a highly charged, wasteful floral extravaganza.


    Charles Cowling
  7. Charles Cowling
    Belinda Forbes

    David – I agree about introducing humour into the funeral when appropriate. There’s no doubt that this sort of thing brings a lot of comfort. Also, although letters aren’t for me, I’m wary of denouncing this choice on environmental grounds – when it comes to ‘Green’ issues there are a lot of hypocrites out there.


    Charles Cowling
  8. Charles Cowling
    David Holmes

    If you google ‘DS 420’ and click images – you’ll see a picture of my old Daimler hearse on a film set. On one side the flowers spell OLD BAG, I think the other side has the word BASTARD.


    Charles Cowling
  9. Charles Cowling
    David Holmes

    I have asked my children to order a W and an anchor for mine! I hope it will introduce some amusement to my last journey and raise a smile should anyone be feeling glum. Generally those name tributes are a pain to we undertakers. The flower heads are cut so short as to fall out long before the family has seen the word chosen. They create the impression that we handled them roughly. The sprayed colour tributes are horrid!

    As for photographing coffins and funerals, people still seem reluctant or unsure if it’s OK. I think it’s a lovely thing to do. An image of a beautiful coffin and tribute can be a real comfort when the funeral is over? And these days with some family and friends living too far away or even too broke to attend, it can help make them feel a part of it. I think (and hope) video will become more commonplace. I have several people willing to produce professional video and would do it for my own family members under the right circumstances.


    Charles Cowling
  10. Charles Cowling
    Narcissus

    It has to be skipped, Lyra. So sad to see. Deconstructing them would take too long. And you can’t use most of the blooms, the stems are too short. Funeral flowers should live on after the funeral, not be abandoned. It should only be a one-way journey for the deceased.


    Charles Cowling
  11. Charles Cowling
    Lyra Mollington

    Rosie and Charles: I hadn’t thought about all the plastic in those letters. And I don’t suppose any of it is recylced or re-used.


    Charles Cowling
  12. Charles Cowling
    charles

    Lyra, Rosie’s right. Funeral flowers can be quite environmentally naughty.


    Charles Cowling
  13. Charles Cowling
    Evelyn

    Oh Lyra – what a tarter – fancy sneaking into the crem in the first place!! You’ve got a nerve! And then getting your camera out and one swift flash… et voila! What a fab coffin and bright floral tribute – I’m glad you did though, I really like it. And though you may be surprised by the curly kale and purple sprouting broccoli, I bet you weren’t half as surprised as I was when I approached a coffin for the farewell words the other day and spied carrots ……and very big very red radishes nestling amongst the blue hydrangea heads! Floristry has come a long way since Constance Spry wrote her book… indeed.


    Charles Cowling
  14. Charles Cowling
    rosie

    Last time I heard, those damn letters where getting on for £50 each and they create so much non re-useable rubbish, so not for me or mine.

    Saw a photo stating B****CKS recently alongside a coffin. I will see if I can source it.


    Charles Cowling
  15. Charles Cowling
    Lyra Mollington

    Thank you Quokkagirl for your kind and interesting comments. Your brain surgeon confirms what I had suspected. However I am worried that you have a brain surgeon. I wish you well.


    Charles Cowling
  16. Charles Cowling
    Quokkagirl

    Lyra, your posts are a joy.

    I do rather fancy one of these knitted coffins myself. It would be rather nice to be wrapped up in a ‘blankie’ at the end. I think they are particularly beautiful and appropriate for little ones.

    And as for the floral tributes, hats off to the florists.

    I still have a bit of trouble coming down off my lower middle class pedestal sometimes with the floral words but, without fail, they show in letters a foot hight what love there is for Nana, sis, Dad etc. And maybe for those less articulate than ourselves, it says everything there is to say.

    I insist on a smile at every funeral I attend. No simpering smile, but a hearty one – even at a tragic funeral, I insist on a providing a proper smile at some stage. It is the natural way of things in grief to switch the cry button to the laugh button (which according to my brain surgeon sit adjacent to each other in the brain box) and back again in seconds. Sometimes, in deep grief they need a nudge but it always works.

    Can’t wait to read your next posting.


    Charles Cowling

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