The Good Funeral Guide Blog

Cockup

Monday, 21 May 2012

The following is an abridged version of a story in this is Cheshire

 

A GRIEVING sibling says she is angry and upset after the wrong picture was placed by her brother’s coffin at his funeral.

Directors at Co-op Funeralcare also forgot to lay a Manchester United flag over the coffin as directed.

The 63-year-old said: “We have been totally ignored.  Nobody has come back to me, I have to keep ringing them. We didn’t know who the man was in the picture but I was too upset to say during the service.”

After three months of calls, Mrs Banner finally received a letter of apology from the company and was told two weeks ago the fee for the service had been refunded.

She added: “If we had a sincere apology straightaway from the Co-Op that would have done it. But now I can’t let go of the idea that I couldn’t fulfill my brother’s last wishesI think they thought I was upset and if they left it long enough I would give up but they have made me angry and now I can’t let go. “I don’t think they should get away with treating people like that and I would never use them again.”

A spokesman for Co-operative Funeralcare said the flag was placed inside rather than on top of the coffin ‘due to a breakdown in communications’.

He added: “We would once again like to offer our sincere apologies to Mrs Banner and have reviewed our procedures in order to ensure that this will not happen again. We sent a letter to Mrs Banner a few weeks ago apologising and offering to reduce the cost of the funeral by means of compensation. We pride ourselves on the professional service that we provide to our clients and acknowledge that, on this occasion, our level of service fell short of our usual high standards. The celebrant, independent to Funeralcare, has expressed his apologies that the photograph he used was not a photograph of Mr Bonehill and has returned his fee.”

 

Ed’s note: While it’s true to say that a good celebrant will make a funeral director look good, and a bad funeral director can never make a good celebrant look bad, this story shows us that a bad celebrant can make a funeral director look awful. One is almost inclined to offer condolences to the Co-op, but not quite. 

15 comments on “Cockup

  1. sweetpea

    Thursday 31st May 2012 at 7:38 pm

    Kingfisher, I think that there has been a mis-reading of what I actually said, which was ‘I may act in many ways – as an MC, joining up sections and otherwise not contributing….’ etc.

    Those comments, within their context, were only referring to the internal workings of a ceremony once underway, and more specifically took issue with the eye-wateringly narrow definition of a celebrant’s role, ie ‘We are there to deliver a tribute to the person who has died, not to be placing pictures of the deceased on the coffin.’

    I deliberately didn’t say ‘as an MC, directing everything from the off and generally stepping on people’s toes’. Because I’m only too aware that we each need to know what we are doing on the day so that we are not tripping over each other.

    We all, hopefully, get to know our individual fds and there’s a mutual understanding of how each other likes to work. I’d say that there’s a 100% understanding with fds that the funeral is pretty much under their direction until the moment they nod to the celebrant, which ‘hands the ceremony over’ to said celebrant so that they can do their stuff.

    If the funeral is quite a traditional one, I am more than happy for the fd to do his/her part, and for me to take over when s/he leaves off. But I would always reserve the right to discuss and negotiate if there are any special requests/quirks which emerge during the many hours I spend with a family.

    It is quite possible that a widow will ask me to hold the photograph of her husband and place it on the catafalque, perhaps because I have established a tremendous connection with her over the preceding 10 days, or ask me to stay with her husband’s coffin before the ceremony starts ‘so that he won’t be left alone.’ And in every case, if the request deviates from the traditional ‘norm’, I would discuss this with the fd to prevent muddle and/or offence.

    In a more non-traditional funeral, where all sorts of things may be different, including a complete absence of an fd, then again I would reserve the right to explore and discuss these with the fd or whoever else is involved so that everyone is on board with the concept of the funeral, and hopefully working hard to make it happen as seamlessly as possible.

  2. Thursday 31st May 2012 at 10:12 am

    I have mixed feelings on this one.

    I think it’s great that the celebrant is doing what might traditionally have been seen as the funeral director’s role. After all, it’s only very recently, with the advent of celebrants, that there has been any real personalisation of funeral at all.

    However, where there is blurring of lines, there is also blurring of responsibility, and, sadly, when something goes wrong, as in this case, it is the funeral director who takes the hit, so can we really blame someone like Janice who wants to accept that responsibility as a funeral director?

    There are no tags on the post saying “celebrant cocks up” are there? It’s very much about “Co-operative Funeralcare cocks up” and is that really fair?

    Sweetpea, your comment that you act as MC may be the real issue at test here, and is certainly something that is successfully addressed by funeral directors and celebrants working closely together.

    You may be interested or shocked to learn that every funeral director who has a Dip.FD has learnt, and been expected to regurgitate, the 5 roles of a funeral director. It’s very often the first question in the exam.

    1. Custodian of the body
    2. Agent
    3. Contractor
    4. Technical advisor
    5. Master of Ceremonies

    Too many cooks…?

  3. sweetpea

    Monday 28th May 2012 at 8:09 pm

    ‘Is this a case of the celebrant getting too involved? We are there to deliver a tribute to the person who has died, not to be placing pictures of the deceased on the coffin.’

    What an extraordinary statement, Janice, and a pretty narrow interpretation of what a celebrant can be to a family.

    Charles is absolutely right, the lines are beautifully blurred between good celebrants and good fds, not through muddle, but by true co-operation, working to provide their clients with a meaningful and supported experience.

    I’m certainly not there on some sort of default ‘to deliver a tribute to the person who has died’. I may act in many ways – as an MC, joining up sections and otherwise not contributing, I may speak every word in a funeral, I may sit and take part in a silent, contemplative service of meditation, I may pay tribute to the person’s life through a formal eulogy, I may arrange photographs with a family and decorate the coffin with home-made pictures, I may share food and drink with the family during the funeral. I may do lots of things, hopefully in response to an particular group of people.

    If you baulk at a celebrant placing a photograph, I think you may be in for a shock when you witness an authentic funeral.

  4. Thursday 24th May 2012 at 9:28 am

    It’s very open plan Charles. Rather like one of those modern cold store warehouses used as supermarket distribution centres.

    It features an impressive racking system. Who knows whom Nan could end up alongside, underneath or on top of? Or which ‘funeral director’ was using the facility. They do trade under many names you know?

    I certainly agree, families would be a little surprised if given a glimpse inside this charming warehouse.

  5. Wednesday 23rd May 2012 at 8:40 pm

    A dormitory of the dead. It’s not what people want for Nan, is it? So why do they do it?

  6. Wednesday 23rd May 2012 at 6:08 pm

    You should see the huge but lovely open-plan ‘funeralcare’ mortuary in Hook Hants. Very nice.

  7. andrew plume

    Tuesday 22nd May 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Thanks Charles

    “Ah, yes, Andrew, those central mortuaries. No one knows about them, do they? I wonder why they don’t know”

    Well because one chooses not to believe that they exist plus the fact that 99% of the population always assume that Uncle Bert is in the fridge at the back of the ‘arranging branch’

    I’m sure that they wouldn’t be dead (sic) chuffed to hear that Dignity maintain vast warehouses in Kingston and Walthamstow and that f’care have a similar set up in Hayes. There’s also the fact that the Corporates certainly would not advertise those facts….and now we’re moving towards one of our favourite ‘little issues’ i.e. ‘economies of scale, – Charles, you and I had better not get that one moving again….

    and………..again of course, it’s yet another example of a f’care foul up, so many of which have previously graced these pages. Why is it that we never hear of Dignity on this sorry theme? – there has to be one and only one answer, they take ‘more care’

    best regards

    andrew

  8. Monday 21st May 2012 at 11:07 pm

    Two schools of thought, Janice. I have never seen this as being an FD’s role or responsibility, nor have I met one that did. When I have put a photo on a coffin it has always been with the help of a family member. Having said which, I deplore the demarcation which characterises the two roles.

    Over and above that, I would say that the role of FDs and celebrants is to empower families. A collaborative approach is the best way.

    As things are, I reckon this celebrant was bang to rights.

  9. Jonathan

    Monday 21st May 2012 at 9:03 pm

    Presumably for the same reason, Charles, that no-one knows about the abbatoirs that provide them with their dead flesh to eat. No-one cares to care.

  10. Monday 21st May 2012 at 9:01 pm

    As a funeral director and a celebrant, I would question why the celebrant had taken it upon himself to put the picture on the coffin in the first place. On talking to the family, this request should have been passed back to the funeral director, for him/her to discuss with the family and for the FD to take the responsibility of dealing with this request. Is this a case of the celebrant getting too involved? We are there to deliver a tribute to the person who has died, not to be placing pictures of the deceased on the coffin. In my opinion he has well and truly stepped on the FD’s toes.

  11. Monday 21st May 2012 at 8:22 pm

    Ah, yes, Andrew, those central mortuaries. No one knows about them, do they? I wonder why they don’t know.

  12. Monday 21st May 2012 at 5:57 pm

    I agree. The funeral director is unlikely to have seen the deceased nor even the family member who arranged the funeral. It’s the joy of the hub and spoke business model. Your caring Co-op.

  13. andrew plume

    Monday 21st May 2012 at 5:54 pm

    Liam

    “…It would appear that the Co-op funeral director or other Co-op staff present had no idea what the deceased looked like…”

    This is the sort of occurence that can only happen or is more likely to happen when one instructs such a Corporate – the deceased goes off to the warehouse where all of the necessary is dealt with on ‘an industrial conveyor belt basis’ – probably just one of dozens leaving ‘their factory’ that week………..

    andrew

  14. Liam

    Monday 21st May 2012 at 3:36 pm

    The good old blame game eh!As always the Co-op appears to accept little or no blame despite the fact that they are the appointed funeral director and thus contractor on behalf of the client. As such they are suppose to oversee all aspects of the arrangements in order to ensure that there all parties are singing of the same hymn sheet etc.

    It would appear that the Co-op funeral director or other Co-op staff present had no idea what the deceased looked like or were otherwise engaged or focused when the photo was placed by the coffin. Unless of course they were not present when this happened?

    As for placing a flag inside the coffin, I would respectfully suggest that this would truly be a history making event as flags are always supplied to be placed over the coffin! Perhaps the celebrant was also the person who closed down the coffin? Who knows and it would also appear, who really cares?!

  15. Jonathan

    Monday 21st May 2012 at 2:40 pm

    “not quite”?? The beauty of understatement!

    Reading between the lines, it seems likely that the family told the celebrant of their wishes about the flag and the picture, then celeb went and brought the wrong pic, silly him; but
    could he have failed to get the correct message across to the fd about the flag because of the ‘breakdown in communications’ that is Funeralcare’s default mode every single time we try and tell them what’s required of them, the arrogant twats?

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