Dear Mr Tinning,
I found myself, this morning, entertaining one of those whimsical thoughts that pops into our heads when we’re showering. Have you noticed how people tend to say ‘He’s been dead for 30 years, now’ instead of, ‘He died 30 years ago’? It’s as if they regard death as something akin to a state of being. I wonder if there’s an insight there into subconscious existential belief in a secular age? What do you think?
Look, I mustn’t distract you when you have obviously got a lot on your plate. How do I know you have? Because this is the third letter I have written to you, and you haven’t replied to the first yet.
How’s it going with the re-think? Are we any closer to founding principles? Am I getting ahead of myself? Have you picked yourselves up yet?
I ask because your website still carries a video clip of you giving your reaction to that Dispatches programme before the programme went out. Mr Tinning, you cannot respond to something before it has happened! You urgently need to speak to those many people who are still in shock as a result of what they saw. Please, break the silence.
While you’re about it, you might like to have a word with the person who worded the answers to the FAQs on that same webpage. There is one question:
Are deceased stored naked in mortuary facilities?
to which the answer is:
No, a deceased should not be stored naked the modesty of the deceased is maintained at all times and in addition the deceased will always be covered with a clean white sheet.
Let’s agree to draw a veil over the missing full stop after ‘naked’. Let’s talk instead about the word ‘deceased’. It’s used a lot by the funeral industry but, like the term ‘hygienic treatment’, it’s not much used by anyone else except, perhaps, as a dainty euphemism by the genteel. It’s jargon, George. If you insist on using it, understand that it is most commonly used as an adjective but, when used as a noun, can only be accompanied by the definite article. You can no more talk about ‘a deceased’ than you can talk about ‘deceaseds’.
Listen to it. ‘Deceased’ is sibilant. It gives off a double hiss like escaping gas. Not euphonious, George. It sounds neuter. It’s a horrible word. Divorce it.
And remember: so far as most people are concerned, a deceased, inanimate as it may be, is still a person, whose care is a sacred task.
That’s all I’ve time for. Before I go, a quick reminder. When you’ve got positive and reassuring messages you’d like to pass on to funeral shoppers, do let us know. We really want to get behind you.
With all best wishes,
PS You’ll have picked up that there is a great deal of talk these days about funeral poverty, and you know that more and more people are finding it difficult to pay for a funeral. I’m sure you will have been inspired by the example of your sister Canadian funeral co-ops: ‘the average cost of a funeral in Canada in 2004 was CAD$6,325, while the average cost of a cooperative funeral was $3,677.’ It puts one in mind of one of the core principles of the Rochdale Pioneers: to enable working people to buy that which they would not otherwise be able to afford.