The only way round is through

Charles Cowling

Once upon a time people dreaded dying. They couldn’t be sure it would be painless. They dreaded being dead, too. Some feared the unknown. Others lamented the end of their existence.

A very few people had no fear whatever of being dead because they trusted in a joy-drenched afterlife. But even these people dreaded dying.

Death was a big deal.

In those days, people affected by the death of someone were called ‘the bereaved’. They experienced grief. Even people who were certain that their dead person had gone to paradise were sad because they missed them. So funerals were sad occasions. There was no way round this. It was because everyone was sad.

Because dying could be such a horrible thing, people didn’t talk about it. When they were dead, this made life difficult for everyone. The undertaker would gently say to the bereaved, “What do you want to do?” and the bereaved would reply, “What she would have wanted.” The undertaker would gently ask, “What was it she wanted?” and the bereaved would reply, “We don’t know.”

The pre-need funeral plan people gazed sadly at their unsold pre-need funeral plans and said, “What hope for us when everyone’s in denial?”

People who know what’s best for people saw that what death needed was an image makeover. “It’s not so bad when you talk about it,” they said. And they had a point – up to a point. “It has been said,” they said, “that what we fear most about dying is the associated loss of control. By empowering patients to express their wishes, that control can be restored.” “Does it bollocks,” said the people with neurodegenerative diseases.

The pre-need funeral plan people proved, with smoke and mirrors, that grief can be bypassed by partying. And because no one wants anyone to be sad when they die, everyone flocked to buy their very own pre-need, knees-up party plan.

So now when relicts go to the undertaker, the undertaker says, “Hello.” And the relicts say, “What’s next?” And the undertaker says, “This, this is what’s next. This is what you’ll do, this is what you’ll wear, this is what you’ll listen to, this is how you’ll feel. It’s all laid down and it’s all paid up.”

And the relicts say, “Sorry, we feel too sad, we miss her.” Or, “Are you joking, mate? We couldn’t stand him.”

And Death says, “Right. You’ll do it my way.”

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gloriamundi
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gloriamundi

That is, in my opinion (even lawyers allow opinions, I think) a truly revolting advert, even if you wanted some of the things those actors say they want. It’s particularly revolting because it trivialises death, and makes the business of understanding and accepting human mortality even harder.

Claire’s excellent comment covers so much. Listen, Dead Person, sorry you’ve gone and all, but you’ve had your life. This is for the people who loved you. Trying to control it all looks friendly, cosy, death-denying. It is in fact a piece of morbid egotism.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

And by the way, if you haven’t seen the advert yet, watch it on an empty stomach.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

What truly, truly horrifiy me about it, Claire, are the numbers of people who say it’s the best thing they/their relatives have done.

It’s the same legal loophole that allows you to sell a mass-produced hamburger
as “food”, and hey presto – gullible people actually use it as part of their diet!

It’s time we taught funeral care in schools.

Claire Callender
Guest

Also, the big boys who try and emotionally blackmail you into paying for your funeral upfront are simply trying to sew up the market for the next forty years and put all the independent undertakers out of business

Claire Callender
Guest

What is it with all this planning your own funeral? It’s not up to you, it’s about you. But it is an important ritual for the people you leave behind. If you have to, say what you DON’t want. If you want to organise a party for yourself do it on your birthday…. There are the people behind this advert at one extreme who want several thousand hard earned £’s off you up front, to the irritating memorybox style I want this music at my funeral websites who want a few hundred. There is an important therapeutic process to be… Read more »

Perpetua's Garden
Guest

Naturally, a cynic precisely with regard to our trivialization of the least trivial matter of all! And not a cynic of its significance!

GM, your comments always greatly interest me – I sense a similar view on things. I’d appreciate you visiting my site and commenting on my ideas with regard to perpetual cemeteries. *Sorry Charles, if your site has thus become a networking forum!

gloriamundi
Guest
gloriamundi

H’mm – or is Charles au fond an idealist, who rightly sees that we short-cut grieving, trivialise funerals, turn the whole rite into a pile of market-driven image-making, at our peril. To trivialise death and seek to bypass grieving is to brutalise life – your own life.I think that’s why it troubles him.

But healthy in outlook, he is indeed (least, far as this stuff goes, don’t know about the rest of it, of course…)

Perpetua's Garden
Guest

What a wonderfully healthy cynic you are, Charles!