Yesterday I wrote about the two problems that most bedevil funeral directors. First, in the public perception, they offer poor value for money, a charge of which they are, most of them, innocent. Second, they may feel that they occupy a marginalised position in society because people wonder what’s under their fingernails. As ever, it was the comments that yielded the best thoughts. If you missed them, read them.
Undertakers need people to stand up for them and tell them as they are. And a very good suggestion comes from a comment on this blog in the Houston Press. The writer is talking about what bereaved people need most:
[O]ne thing that would have been really helpful would have been someone to answer the phone and the door, and keep the kitchen in some semblance of order. We had DOZENS of phone calls every day for over a week. Next time we’ll know that if someone asks, “Can I do something for you?” We’ll say, “Yes, would you mind coming over for a couple hours on Wednesday to help out.” I think there might even be a business opportunity in this for funeral homes to offer, and retired people — who know how to answer the phone, and have been through a few funerals — would be ideal for this sort of duty. My father-in-law and I have actually discussed starting a service like this.
I don’t go along with the business opp line. I think that would spoil it. But I do suspect that there are lots of people who would welcome the opportunity to do good voluntary work for the bereaved. Many people who have been bereaved want to use their understanding and experience for the benefit of others. Helping others helps them.
Some bereaved people don’t drive and need to get to the registrar, the bank. Some of them have never had anything to do with the household accounts; others have never cooked for themselves; some are skint; some have lawns that need mowing; some have never been alone before… Almost all are too blown away to think and act at anything like full effectiveness.
So there is a role for drivers, advisers, social fund form-fillers, cooks, hooverers, phone minders and listeners. And there are lots of people out there who would do this for the sake of it – who would, indeed, not do it if they were paid for it. They would also play an important part in joining up the funeral home to mainstream society. And they would become ambassadors for that funeral home, for they would testify to the excellence and humanity of the funeral director and his/her staff.
Few funeral directors are likely to find this proposal attractive. They are more defensively secretive than they think they are. And they are uncomfortable with any activity which might seem to subvert or subtract from their pre-eminence in the arrangement process.
But if they think about it, were they to have a little band of handpicked volunteers they would, by offering an enriched service, greatly enhance their prestige.
It takes confidence to relax the control freakery and embrace collaboration. But good funerals are created by communities, not martinets.