Thoughts of a funeral-goer

Charles 7 Comments

Posted by Lyra Mollington

There is not a lot of enthusiasm amongst my friends for discussing funerals.  Even Daisy cannot help raising an eyebrow.   However there are a few people who, given the opportunity, are eager to talk, even to a virtual stranger. 

When Colin and I were walking on Barnes Common last weekend, I started chatting to a fellow dog-walker.  We had spoken on several occasions, albeit briefly and usually about dogs or the weather.  This man’s dog is a butch-looking mid-grey Staffie cross.  I already knew how his wife had ‘completely ruined’ his plans to name the dog Storm (something to do with a film called ‘Hard To Kill’ which I keep meaning to Google).  She got her own way ‘as usual’ and named him Misty.

As we surveyed the puddles around us, we started discussing the drought.  One thing led to another and I mentioned my hobby of writing about funerals.  Well, talk about lighting the touch paper! He began telling me about his friend who had stated IN WRITING that he did not want ANY kind of funeral ceremony or service.  After his friend died, Misty’s owner was HORRIFIED when he received an invitation to the FUNERAL.  I sympathised, although I was tempted to say that he was being a little hard on his friend’s family and definitely shouting too much.  However, mindful of Misty who seemed to be staring at me menacingly, I asked if he had made any requests for his own send-off.

Indeed he had!  Like his friend, he too did NOT want a funeral and he had already told EVERYONE this – including his doctor and his dentist. He then began complaining about the cost of coffins and wondered whether a body could be delivered to the crematorium in a sheet?  I wasn’t certain that it could.  In any case I was sure he would want to avoid any problems with leakage.  Perhaps some kind of plastic body bag might be necessary – and maybe even a plank of wood to provide the necessary rigidity. 

My mind was now firing on all cylinders and I was ignoring the strange looks we were getting from passers-by.  Thinking out loud, I said he should consider ordering a flat-pack cardboard coffin.  Then, let his nearest and dearest know where it’s stored (including, if he must, his doctor and dentist).  He could write in large letters on the lid and sides of his coffin, ‘Straight to the cremator – NO ceremony!’  If he ordered a white or pale-coloured one, a black marker pen would be extremely effective.  He thought this was a splendid idea.  With a cheery wave he continued on his way.  Which was quite a relief as Colin was becoming slightly on edge by the attention he was getting from Misty.

As we walked back I wondered whether he really would buy his own coffin.  It then started to rain again and I hoped that he would remember to use a permanent marker pen. Not that any of this is a guarantee that his wishes will be honoured.  His loved ones will say that the coffin and its message simply illustrate what a unique or eccentric character he had been. Or they could cover up the message with collage.  Or buy a new coffin… 

Oh dear, he needs a better plan.  Although I am beginning to question whether he has any loved ones, apart from Misty of course. 


  1. Charles

    Dear Lyra, what a mine of constructive, quizzical thought you are, and increasingly, of useful information too!

    I suppose you would have risked a waist-high assault from Misty, stimulated by more shouting from his owner, if you’d suggested that making absolute demands about a funeral ceremony at which one is not oneself present, and leaving no thought or consideration for the feelings of family and friends, is a little on the egotistical and selfish side.

    Or so it seems to me, at least, and I hope I’m not alone in thinking this. Are not funerals for the bereaved, unless they need to follow a particular religious code, in which case the spiritual consequences of funerary rites need to be born in mind. I guess.

    Lyra, I think you should consider holding one of these Death Cafes that young Charles bangs on about occasionally. This is not, of course, a cafe where one goes to die over a latte, but a cafe-type meeting for people to discuss their feelings and thoughts about the ending of their lives before that event overtakes them.

    Had Misty’s owner gone to such a meeting run by someone of your tact, he might have a given a bit more thought and a little less testosterone to his own funeral. Or is he just in a bit of a panic about it all? Still at the “What, me too? Really? Now, this minute? There must be some mistake. Hang on, I just need to go and talk to that sensible lady on Barnes Common, I…oh sh…..”

  2. Charles

    Thank you for commenting Tim. Contemplating death over afternoon tea sounds like a splendid idea. Come to think of it, Daisy and I seem to be doing a lot of that lately. However, I wouldn’t be too keen on Misty’s owner joining us – I prefer to talk to him out in the open.

  3. Charles

    A thinly veiled commercial for a DIY funeral – I’d say, Myra. Not that I’m against them myself; but I think that Tim (above) is right on the button about the survivors – it’s for them. But perhaps a knees up for them once the permanent marked coffin has gone up in carbon cleansed smoke would satisfy all parties both living and not so living?

  4. Charles

    It’s a difficult one James. My sister-in-law, who has always been a bit of a recluse, told us years ago that she was no longer sending Christmas cards, did not wish to receive them, and did not want a funeral. What will happen when the time comes, who knows? I still send her a Christmas card – usually a cheeky-looking robin.

  5. Charles

    A;ways a joy, Lyra. I say James’ suggestion is the best one. Just going out now to my internet-purchased flat pack and, if A A Milne will forgive me the artistic licence, I shall write BIF FUNERAL very blackly on the lid.

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