Guest post from Jonathan Taylor, independent funeral celebrant in Totnes.
(That’s not his photo above, by the way.)
We are always delighted to receive guest posts from long time readers of the GFG blog, and this one is very topical given the obsession with ‘whacky funerals’ from the media (most recently the Nigerian man who buried his father in a brand new car, see here) and the keenness of Co-operative Funeralcare to position itself as ‘a thought leader on funeral trends and to tackle the misconception that large funeral directors were impersonal’ in pumping out PR about bespoke funerals -see here.
Over to you Jonathan.
I’m often asked, regarding my work with funerals; “What is the whackiest funeral you’ve ever done?”
It went like this. Well, as a matter of fact almost all of them have gone like this:
A gaunt figure in faux-Victorian fancy dress, carrying a silver-capped cane and black leather gloves, slowly led a specially adapted, shiny black vehicle, followed by two extremely long motor cars carrying the family, up the crematorium drive.
A lozenge-shaped veneered box with brass-effect plastic handles, topped by a floral wreath and containing the dead person’s body, was visible through the high glass sides of the leading vehicle as it pulled up by the door. Four pinstripe-clad gentlemen bowed to the box with an air of contrived solemnity resembling some obscure parody of grief, and carried it into a mock-ecclesiastical chapel and onto a roller-topped bench within a curtained area, before melting away mysteriously to allow Mister Macabre to usher his victims into parallel rows of benches a short distance from the corpse.
Everyone listened to a tribute to the person whose funeral it was, spoken by me as I stood between the living and the dead. Someone read a poem for him, the curtains closed over the coffin to his favourite tune, and the attendant signalled the allotted time was up. Black Glove bowed to the curtains and lubricated everyone’s way outside round the back, where he put the coffin flowers on display and stood clasping his top hat with an air of restless patience before driving off to meet another wood-effect box for a similar procedure; and the chief mourners departed, tangibly relieved, in the expensive cars that passed an identical cortège of vehicles, led by another Dickensian character, on its way up the drive.
Weird enough. But when I’ve asked bereaved families why they’d chosen this particular style of grieving ritual, they’ve mostly been at a loss to explain.