Stick to what you know

Charles 9 Comments

Guest post by Vita Incerta

Was I alone in reading The Times journalist, Janice Turner’s piece about the funeral of her Godmother? In a rip roaring and impassioned annihilation, she tore apart the ‘crass, vain, sloppy buffoon’  who led her Godmother’s service. 

This wasn’t some half baked celebrant, nor a clueless member of the clergy. It was a Funeral Director. The ritual was held at the  FD’s premises. 

Addressing those gathered in ‘the jocular tone suitable for a boozy Rotarian lunch’, in his opening words he waxed lyrical about the lovely spread of sandwiches awaiting the mourners afterwards. Some ten minutes passed before Ms Turner heard her Godmother’s life mentioned as he extolled the virtues of his undertaking firm. Ms Turner knew that he had spoken with those closest to her Godmother, but it became quickly evident that – anathema to a journalist – he had taken no notes. The FD compounded his foolishness by making errors about Ms Turner’s Godmother that were corrected by those attending. He then argued with his audience about the date of VE Day…and so it went on. It is such a shame that the article is behind a paywall. 

But I take notes and pre prepare my eulogy. E mail or snail mail or hand deliver my draft to those closest and they are encouraged to add, subtract, revise to their heart’s content.  Every unknown fact: be it the date of VE Day, the merits of one dance hall over another, the name of the grocer in the High Street fifty years ago; all are checked and rechecked against local history books and websites and consultations with a few wise local buffers, who are generous of mind and spirit and have the time to help me get these things right, if I come up against a brick wall. 

To those who see no merit in paying a different speaker to lead a funeral ceremony for one who, in life, they have loved…caveat emptor. Plan this carefully and appreciate that we all have our limits. I would no sooner suggest that I could conceivably sport a morning coat and brandish a stick with the élan of some FDs, nor embalm to make someone appear as if in repose, than I would attempt an Argentinean Tango, given that I struggle to walk down a flight of stairs without hanging grimly on to both sides. 

I am not all things to all men, rathermore a passionate gobsh*te (Thanks, GM) attempting to offer some small salve to families whose needs might  otherwise be shoddily met. Why on earth should  Funeral Directors consider themselves any different ? 


  1. Charles

    While it is great that a company can undertake an entire funeral for £700, it worries me that a) you have to pay a security deposit for the entire bill and b) I couldn’t see any mention on what happens should your application for a funeral payment be refused.

    ” To enable us to help as many families as possible we require a security deposit for the full cost of the funeral 3 working days prior to the cremation taking place. This can be paid by a third party and the full value of any award will be refunded.”

    I am sure if a family had access to the full payment, they wouldn’t need to claim from the state.

  2. Charles

    Also, in my experience, what the DWP website says about how contributions are calculated and what they will actually contribute are 2 entirely different things…I have yet to work it out. (Despite spending 2 hours on the phone to the Social Fund information line once. Also, if the money has already been paid out, unless you can prove that it was borrowed and needs to be paid back, the amount you have paid is deducted from your claim…despite the fact that the Social Fund website says that it is not means tested. This being the case I have no idea how this could work. Brilliant idea on paper….huge gamble in practice. No idea how it would work.

    1. Charles

      I have just helped a family where their loved one died on Christmas Eve. The funeral director they initially engaged wouldn’t write or send a bill to the DWP and the family had no means of paying without the DWP’s help.
      The family signed no paperwork and went for a quote.

      The family were then told that if they couldn’t pay the bill within their terms, their only option was an environmental health funeral which added to their distress.

      After trying to work out how they were going to pay for a funeral, their contact at the DWP advised that they get a second quote….which is where I come in. Not only was my standard quote less expensive by £800, I was also prepared to spend half an hour emailing a bill direct to the DWP.

      After waiting four months with absolutely no help from their initial funeral director, I have just received a letter from the DWP that they have awarded the payment and it will be in the company account tomorrow.
      Again, this is a business, but sometimes it really isn’t about money. It is about helping people because you can.

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