Blessed are the risk-takers

Charles Cowling

There’s a strong feeling among funeralistas that making money out of death is wrong, naff, reprehensible. This is good news for consumers. I’ve met a good many vocation-driven undertakers who could charge far more than they do but they won’t because they think it’s… wrong. Ironically, even the greediest, porkiest undertaker will lend his or her voice to indignantly and righteously denounce a celebrant who charges much more than a retired priest.

My own credibility (such as it is) is founded in the fact that I can’t make what I do pay. In any other industry this foolhardy indigence would earn me derision. In Funeralworld it is my indispensable calling card, my most disarming attribute.

I don’t buy all this. I think that the labourer is worthy of his or her hire. If you can be of use to someone, send them a bill which reflects your value and their ability to pay. Wish I could.

The newly-launched end-of-life planning service Lovingly Managed has attracted some tsk-tsk-ing. But it serves a need which no one else is serving, a need which is going to grow as the population ages, grows spectre-thin and dements. There are aspects to end-of-life planning which, to many, will be either difficult to get your head around or just plain tedious. Necessary, though. Will writing. Lasting Power of Attorney for the time when you lose your wits. An ADRT for the time when you want them to leave you alone. Information and guidance about body donation, assisted dying, tissue donation, financial planning, funeral planning. Who’s going to look after the dog? There’s a lot to it. Lovingly Managed sit down with you, take you through it and fill out the boring paperwork – just like my accountant and, recently, my brilliant mortgage person. “Sign here.” Done. Worth every penny. You love people like this too.

Lovingly Managed is run by expert, ethical people headed by a solicitor. They present no threat to anyone else in Funeralworld: they are plugging a gap. Have they got the tone right on their website? Not yet, perhaps, in places, I don’t know. No worries. They’re bright so they adapt. I’ve spoken to Denise Jones who heads it up. I like her. A lot. People need what she and her team are doing.

Another busy bee in this emerging niche market of end-of-life planning is Paul Hensby at MyLastSong. This is one of those sites where you record your plans and wishes – you buy yourself a virtual box and fill it up. When I first saw the site and detected its commercialism I tsk-ed a bit. It gets to you, this sniffiness, doesn’t it? Well, he’s working bloody hard to make it work. He’s a nice guy. Is MLS what people want? Don’t know til you try, do you? I really don’t see why not.

To do something new requires vast reserves of self-reliance and stubbornness and reckless optimism. You think you’ve got a winner, that’s what sustains you through the dark days. The best ideas and the worst ideas, we remind ourselves, are greeted equally by cries of “It’ll never work!” You never know til you try. Let’s acknowledge the courage it takes to take risks.

Check out their websites. While you’re at it, vote in the poll on the MLS website – top right on the home page.

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RussellThe Good Funeral Guide – Lovingly Managed responds to its critics and doubtersCatherine CorlessJonathancharles Recent comment authors

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Russell
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Russell

Thank you for your words and responses…I feel your business is very helpful and needed by many, and will only increase as we enter a new and aging landscape.
However, one question is: what about very low income families and the very poor in our society. I believe, that not only in life are the poorer people (for whatever reason)suffering inequality, but in death too……..
Funeral directors are often NOT VERY transparent about costs and leave many vulnerable people in massive debt; this needs to be addressed by Funeral Directors, others, and nationally……

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[…] I wrote this post I guessed what the responses were likely to be. The funeral industry does not like to be […]

Catherine Corless
Guest

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… Read more »

Jonathan
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Jonathan

‘Elderly Escort Service’… hmm.

Reminds me of the time I was going to see ‘Notes on a Scandal’, and my son Ashley was grumbling in the back of the car, “I’m not sure I’ll feel comfortable watching a film about a schoolboy shagging a wrinkly”, when his girlfriend Natalie pronounced, in all innocence (bless her): “Well, it’s tackling a grey area, isn’t it.”

gloriamundi
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gloriamundi

Rupert, sorry, the FD I was thinking of picked up the certificate, maybe he didn’t register. But is there actually a next of kin, in any defining legal sense? Someone Who Should Know told me there was not – but he may have been talking nonsense. These questions may be more important than they seem, because some of them may obstruct the move towards more flexible, community-based post-death activities and rituals, that could take us back/bring us forward to an updated model of what used to happen, before The Industrialisation Of Death (sorry, I seem to have developed capitalitis.) Yes,… Read more »

Graveyard bunny
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Graveyard bunny

Am I the only one who thinks that ‘elderly escort service’ was perhaps the wrong choice of phrase? (http://www.lovinglymanaged.com/elderly-escort-service)

Rupert Callender
Guest

They are quite right though, we (fd’s) don’t register the death, because the only person who can do that is the next of kin.
Damn you Cowling and your slow news day provocative posts…

Death Matters
Guest

I can’t write these services off, but I do want to qualify them – evidently we still need to find the right balance between what works and what has meaning.

These services may help on the side of what works – good American logistical know-how. But they don’t add much to meaning.

And if they work too well, they further empty the moment of meaning by making it all too easy – like junk food.

Paul Hensby
Guest

Buzz, buzz…I’m the busy bee. It has been hard work getting My Last Song off the ground. But it’s been worthwhile in part because of the very positive comments I get from people like you, Charles, and others I speak to about the concept. So many respond by saying that they have a list of the songs they want played, or they have written their funeral wishes. Visits to My Last Song are increasing and people are using the free trial to put info into their Lifebox. I hope I’m right in thinking enough people want to have a funeral… Read more »

gloriamundi
Guest
gloriamundi

Blimey, what a rant. Sorry to clog up your blog, Charles..

gloriamundi
Guest
gloriamundi

Interesting – a few points, if I may. 1. Us GFG commenters might be seen as a relatively sophisticated lot, at least as far as funerals go. I agree that the title of this organisation “Lovingly Managed” is enough to curdle the milk, but mostly they aren’t selling to people like us. I hate the way people use “lovingly” when they just mean “thoughtfully,” or “sensitively,” or “helpfully.” But it is a pretty widespread element of our increasingly Californicated culture, and I guess they thought it necessary. Bit of an oxymoron, isn’t it? Love can’t be managed. It either happens… Read more »

Jonathan
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Jonathan

Can’t say if they’ve got the tone of their website right until I’ve looked at it (maybe in the morning); but the name? To me, it just means ‘Obsequiously Soft-Sold’. I’d hesitate to buy food from a so-named outfit if I were starving.

Rupert Callender
Guest

In Lovingly Managed’s funeral package, much of what they do is already done by the funeral director, such as organising flowers, funeral venue, order of service etc. Just another bill for the bereaved? And I’m no marketing guru, but advertising for franchisees on your home page seems a tad distasteful. I do like a lot of their other services aimed at the elderly though. Maybe too much time spent hanging around this blog has made me a dedicated tsk tsker..