Guest post by Steve
Every funeral at a crematorium will have a point at which the coffin is removed from the sight of the mourners, usually during the committal.
To start off with, is there an optimal speed of removing the coffin from view? Some curtains close in just 10 seconds, which may be too fast for some. Yet a slow 90 second curtain closure may allow time to contemplate for some, or too long to suffer for others.
Curtains – this is the most common form of the coffin “vanishing point”, especially in newer crematoria. The fact that the coffin does not move may make this method more acceptable, but it could also be seen as a rather boring or sterile method saying goodbye. Some European crematoria have moving screens instead of curtains, in some cases with colour changing lighting!
Conveyer/doors – this method is common in older UK crematoria (such as Golders Green and Woking), but rare in new builds. The coffin moves along a conveyer or rollers through a wooden or metallic door into a curtain lined receiving room. Since the infamous James Bond crematorium scene, many mourners probably think that coffin is moving straight into the cremator! Opinions may vary as to whether this method is more dignified that curtains. Certainly the “conveyer belt” method of 30 minute funeral slots at crematoria would not be in keeping with conveyers for the “vanishing point”. Some European crematoria use a combination of a moving catafalque on a floor track and curtains or screen.
Lowering catafalque – this was also common in older crematoria, especially if the crematory was below the chapel. The catafalque lowers at the committal, in keeping with a burial. This may be seen as traditional or tacky. In some cases the coffin can be moved half-way down for flowers to be placed on the coffin, before it is lowered further to a receiving room (or even conveyer belt) below. In a few cases, it is just for show, and the coffin is raised back up again after the mourners have left the chapel.
Do nothing – this is common in European crematoria. The coffin is not removed from sight, but mourners must remove themselves from the coffin at the end of the chapel service. Turning your back on a loved one may be harder than having them removed from you.
Straight into the cremator – in Japan where the cremation rate is 99%, and many other cultures, it is traditional to view the coffin going into the cremator. This may be a bit traumatic for UK audiences, but it may be a more “final” way of saying goodbye. In Singapore, mourners view from a balcony as what can only be described as a robotic forklift moves slowly along a floor track, and places the coffin into the cremator. A You Tube video of this is shown below.
Given that all mourners will likely have a different idea of what is an acceptable method of removing the coffin from view, is there a perfect method of the “vanishing point” to suit everyone?