What do you want at your funeral?

Charles Cowling

Decisions1

 

Guest blogger RR writes today for ‘the silent majority of consumers’.

With the plethora of funeral options, some people choose to give their own send-off advance thought and leave instructions to their next of kin. This brief survey aims to focus the mind on some of the boxes that might need to be ticked. If answering this questionnaire, feel free to give additional comments. For example, if you want music at your funeral, and already have specific favourites, do share…

1 Have you been involved in planning a funeral before?
Yes
No

2 Did the dead person leave instructions for the funeral?
Detailed
Partial

No

3 Do you intend to leave instructions for your own funeral?
Detailed

Partial
No

4 What are your preferences for the ‘disposal’ of the body?
Cremated
Buried
Donated to medical science
Other

5 Where do you want your funeral to take place?
Church
Crematorium
Church and crematorium
Woodland burial ground
Alternative venue
At home
Direct cremation with no funeral service

6 Who do you want to officiate at your funeral?
Religious celebrant
Humanist celebrant
Civil/secular celebrant
Family member
Friend
Noone

7 Which of the following do you want included in the funeral service?
Full religious liturgy
Exclusively secular format
Mix of religious and secular
Eulogy/address
Hymns
Prayers
Poems
Bible readings
Secular readings
Classical music
Contemporary music
Moment of silence
Collective call-out of memories

8 How do you want funeral guests to dress?
Black
Colourful
Specific theme
Formal
Casual
Anything goes

9 What are your coffin or urn design preferences?
Traditional
Modern
Wood
Wicker
Cardboard
Metal
Natural
Colourful
Plain
Decorative
Other (eg cloth shroud)

10 What transport do you want to your funeral?
Traditional hearse
Horse-drawn carriage
Alternative hearse (eg motorbike and sidecar)
Own transport
Other

11 Who do you want to carry the coffin at the service?
Undertakers’ pallbearers
Family and friends
Other

12 Do you plan a committal ceremony after the funeral?
Graveside (burial of coffin or urn)
Scattering of ashes
No committal
Other

13 Do you plan a memorial service or gathering some time after the death/funeral/committal?
Yes
No
Maybe

14 If your body/ashes are to be buried, how do you want the resting place commemorated?
Headstone
Plaque
Planted tree

No marker of the spot
Other
Not applicable

15 Do you plan to budget in advance for your funeral?
Specific funeral plan financial product
Regular financial product (eg ISA)
Instructions in a will for the next of kin
Agreement with next of kin to cover costs
No plan
Other

16 How much do you envisage spending on your funeral?
Up to £1,000
£1,000-£5,000
£5,000-£10,000
Over £10,000

17 Which of the following do you want at your funeral?
Big turnout of family, friends and aquaintances
An intimate gathering
Funeral venue hire
Social venue hire
Celebrant
Transport
Service sheet
Flowers/wreaths
Burial site
Memorial stone or plaque
Musicians and choir/singers
Food and drink
Catering staff and waiters
Photography
Memorial slide/video screen
Candles
Other

18 Before the funeral, where do you want your body to rest?
Cold storage in hospital/undertaker’s morgue
At home
No preference
Other

19 What are your preferences for viewings of the body at a vigil or wake?

Closed coffin
Open coffin
Neither
Other

20 If viewings are welcomed, which options do you prefer?

Visit to undertakers’ chapel of rest
Viewable any time at home
Embalmed body
Temperature-controlled, un-embalmed body
Other

And…
21 Do you believe in some form of life of the soul after death?

Yes
No
Maybe
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28 Comments
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Richard
Richard
6 years ago

James, I don’t want to flog this one to death but I must ask your something. Your response to the questionnaire guiding readers to some of the choices out there (cremation or woodland burial, civil celebrant or family member/friend, wicker coffin or scattering of ashes, horse-drawn carriage or own car) was as follows: ‘I don’t know, but this list depresses me… I want an anti-funeral funeral – none of the above!’ Fair enough, I thought, if you’re an anti-consumerist eco-warrior. I then visited your superb website, Needam Natural Heritage, and admired the beautiful burial meadows. I don’t pretend to know… Read more »

Lol Owen
Lol Owen
6 years ago
Reply to  Richard

Ah, vocation or profession, do as I say or do as I do, wheat and chaff, where do we all fall when the winds of scrutiny blow?

James Leedam
6 years ago
Reply to  Richard

Richard, thank you for looking at our website and your comments are appreciated – (it’s Leedam by the way, not Needam…). We are burial ground managers offering natural burials in beautiful, unspoilt landscape with good stewardship for generations to come. We want people’s experience to be as good as it can be and for the happening to reflect who they are, not what convention dictates. Our main advice is that people should slow down their decision making so that they are not automatically swept along the set piece route. You will have seen that we are great advocates for the… Read more »

James Leedam
6 years ago
Reply to  James Leedam

Sorry – That link should have been HORIZON – How You Really Make Decisions http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03wyr3c

Richard
Richard
6 years ago
Reply to  James Leedam

James, so sorry that, in haste, I referred to Needam instead of Leedam. I understand the choice-offering service and the statement of personal preferences. No conflict there. Thanks.

Jonathan
Jonathan
6 years ago

(… queen from knight’s bishop four, un-mate …) I and a former wife of mine had a no-divorce divorce, Charles – forty quid all in, the young woman at the council office looked at the clock behind us and announced, “it is nine twenty-seven on the ninth of December, you are now divorced”; we then went for a Costa and some Thorntons, and back to work that afternoon. That’s what I call a ceremony. No one went through a check list about fighting each other over the house, sawing the dog in half or visiting the children. Life simply went… Read more »

Lol Owen
Lol Owen
6 years ago

Totally unconnected to this post but mentioned by someone – what the hell has happened to the comments list? It used to be chronologically ordered, like all the best eulogies, but now it’s all over the chuffing place.
After a hard week churning out generic funerals I want to be able to follow the action easily, my head hurts enough as it is.
Sort it out please Charles, there’s a love.

Kathryn Edwards
Kathryn Edwards
6 years ago
Reply to  Lol Owen

Like (Lol’s).

Jonathan
Jonathan
6 years ago

And I’m inclined to think there’s a big difference between what’s on the Create the Ceremony page – ‘how do you want the funeral to taste and to nourish you, bearing in mind it’s you who’s eating it?’ – and RR’s list, which says ‘it’s a foregone conclusion you’ll have to eat this, so do you want a cheese one or a salad one, or be really bold and have a bacon one?’

And I think James is being misunderstood here – he said he liked that version, not that it was a template.

Richard
Richard
6 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Jonathan, or ‘None’ or ‘Other’, meaning readers can do exactly what you’re advocating and go free flow.

At the end of the day, I really don’t care what people choose. We all have lives. I’m glad the list stimulated a mini-discussion but, when some of us churn out copy for this exact purpose, it can be tiresome when criticism occasionally takes the form of sneers rather than constructive disagreement (not your comments, I add).

Moving on, I’m not sure if anti-funeral is a particularly catchy phrase. Ditto DIY funeral. DIY marmalade? Home-made funeral perhaps?

Charles
6 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan

James, if I have, please forgive me.

James Leedam
6 years ago
Reply to  Charles

I’m sure my negative, knee-jerk reaction to a check list is because we are so close to this every day, and hear about so many set-piece, churned-out funerals. ‘Anti-funeral funeral’ was the term used in conversation by the family whose event I described. Other family members asked them when the funeral was going to take place – they said ‘we’re not having one’. They held an event which suited their self-sufficient, independent, free style. Lists do help, as do suggestions and stories told by others. They help people get through what seems to be an unthinkable task. The anti funeral… Read more »

Richard
Richard
6 years ago
Reply to  James Leedam

Thanks, James. Have a great weekend all.

Richard
Richard
6 years ago

Interesting responses so far. I don’t really see how a questionnaire giving people funeral options is a ‘depressing’, ‘dismaying’ display of overt materialism or traditionalism, worthy of a ‘riposte’ (meaning: quick retaliation against an insult!!). Such hyperbolic language makes me wonder how you’d describe the plight of the Syrian refugees I’ve recently visited in Jordan. If anyone actually printed out this as a tick list they could just as easily vote ‘no’ as ‘yes’: ‘no’ to leaving any funeral instructions, ‘no’ to any celebrant, ‘no’ to a hearse etc. And as well mentioning some ‘stuff’, there are questions leaning towards… Read more »

James Leedam
6 years ago
Reply to  Richard

We had a family whose climber husband/father died in a climbing accident. They organised an ‘anti-funeral’ event – no ceremony, no service, no FD, no hearse, no coffin, they did everything themselves. They collected the husband/father from the coroner’s mortuary in the morning. Wrapped him in sheepskins and his cotton sleeping bag liner. Carried him in a sling made from his climbing ropes to their car and drove him straight to our burial ground where they carried him to the grave and lowered him in. They invited people to come to the burial ground to say their individual goodbyes and… Read more »

Richard
Richard
6 years ago
Reply to  James Leedam

Sounds truly lovely, James but I’m sure you agree it wouldn’t be for everyone and that other choices should be respected. You seem like a gneteel and sound fellow who wouldn’t want to arrest Mr Armani, Mr Sainsbury and Apple’s CEO for actually making things, selling things and employing people. You wouldn’t want us to all wear sackcloth uniforms in state-run agrarian communes and be forced by law to have one child families. Such totalitarianism would not only be depressing, it would lead to suffering on a global scale due to collapsed economies. Maybe even WWIII. Beauty makes the soul… Read more »

James Leedam
6 years ago

I don’t know, but this list depresses me… I want an anti-funeral funeral – none of the above!

Jonathan
Jonathan
6 years ago
Reply to  James Leedam

(Since the ‘replies’ format changed some time ago, reading them in any sort of order is like trying to work your way backwards through a game of chess – is there a button that puts them in Krono-Logical format?) But to get back to the point: Yes, James (if you can find James’ comment without being checkmated), wouldn’t it be lovely if the word ‘funeral’ had never been coined! All the etymologists can come up with is ‘Latin funus, meaning…funeral’. What it definitely doesn’t mean is what it generally is used to mean: ‘A list of requirements to accompany the… Read more »

Tim
Tim
6 years ago
Reply to  James Leedam

I would tend to agree with James. But hold on a minute. If all funeral directors posed all of these questions to their clients we might see a more rapid move away from ‘Victorian’ funerals.

The questions make for excellent inclusion in a piece of academic research.

Tim

Charles
6 years ago

I didn’t read it as a riposte

Kathryn Edwards
Kathryn Edwards
6 years ago

That’s ‘liking’ Jonathan’s riposte.

Jonathan
Jonathan
6 years ago

There seems to be a lot missing from this long list, RR – and I don’t mean even more menu items, but the chance for your survivors to respond spontaneously to their own grief and create something for you that works for them, rather than drag themselves along with your own ideas of your own party for yourself. It’s often comforting to have a broad idea of ‘what would have pleased him’, but more than that takes the joy out of creatively celebrating someone’s life and the poignancy out of communally mourning his death. If I were an expert chef… Read more »

Kathryn Edwards
Kathryn Edwards
6 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Like, a lot.

Am a bit dismayed by RR’s emphasis on ‘stuff’, the cold material plane.