Wise words

ru-callender

Ru’s opening words to the assembled guests struck a chord with many who were there, so we thought we’d put them on the blog for the whole world to read. Over to you Rupert.

“Welcome everyone to the Good Funeral Awards 2016!

It started off, as so many good things do, in a sweaty basement in Bournemouth, and has grown into this glamorous Metropolitan lunchtime bunfight.

My name is Ru Callender and I should be standing here with my wife, Claire – sadly, she’s got flu. Together, we run The Green Funeral Company in Devon, and we used to be the Enfants Terrible of the undertaking world. Self taught, stubborn, scruffy, we still use our family Volvo instead of a hearse – but as we’ve been doing it for 17 years, we’re probably just terrible…

Today is a genuinely unusual mélange of the alternative and the conventional funeral world, and it has probably taken longer than the Good Friday agreement took to get everyone in the same room.

You are here because someone thinks you’re great. Let that sink in.

Even if you asked them to.

This gathering is largely due to Charles Cowling and crew of the Good Funeral Guide, and also to the original renegade masters, the Natural Death Centre, both of whose organisations dared to believe that ordinary people could deal with the gritty detail of death, the truth about what happens to our bodies, that a deep, internal understanding of death is part of our birthright, part and parcel of being human.

And what they did – brace yourself, maybe have a glug of wine to steady yourself here, was to treat the public as adults, to include them in a conversation about the one thing that will happen to each and every one of us.

They presumed, as we all should, that people can handle more than the protective narrative that is fed to them.

They were right.

It was thought wildly radical then, now it just seems honest and transparent.

I said funeral world because I refuse to use the word industry. Making computers is an industry. Fashion is an industry. Even getting fit is an industry. I don’t decry industry. It’s necessary.

But death is a true mystery, and working with it should be a vocation, a real calling, and if you’re not meant to be here, if ego, or an understandable search for meaning in your life has misled you here, then death has a way of calling your bluff. You are either initiated, in or out.

This work, the real work of dealing with death and loss is not glamorous, however closely it nearly rhymes with sex, however interesting it makes us appear to those who unfortunately have to work in jobs they hate to pay the bills, and that matter little.

This work, done properly, is incredibly stressful.

It’s exhausting, frightening, physically, emotionally and existentially challenging, but it is also deeply, deeply rewarding.

Burn out is a real risk, or worse, an unconscious hardening of your outer emotional skin – these are the risks you face depending on whether you fully engage with it or not.

Breakdown or bravado. Truly a metaphor for our times.

So, if you work with death – florist, celebrant, undertaker or chaplain, particularly if you are new to it, you really have to let it in.

Go deeper.

Feel it. Fear it. Don’t pretend to love it , because the only thing worse than death is not death – and then, if you can, let it go.

 

This world is also open to all.

Undertaking is completely unregulated, and should remain so in my opinion, not just because no amount of qualifications can teach you what to say to the mother of a dead child, that is an instinctive language that rises unbidden from the heart, but also because we are all amateurs when staring into the abyss, all professionals when faced with a dead body.

And they are OUR dead, yours and mine. We are all funeral directors eventually.

It is a shared mystery and your guess as to what it means, and your actions as to what to do are as valid as mine, or the Church, or the Humanists.

Nobody knows for sure.

The mechanics of what needs to be done are easy, I promise. Keep bodies cold. Put them in a suitable receptacle. Carry them, bury or burn them.

The rest, the words, the rituals, the how we do this, you KNOW, deep down what is right for you. You know.

 

But here I am, bringing you all down at a funeral award convention – I should get a prize for that!

But just indulge me one last time before we start bringing on the champs, and this celebration of the real change that has happened gets underway –

Euphemisms.

They cover the kitchen floor of bereavement like a spilled cat litter tray.

They protect no-one, they fool no-one, they confuse children. They are well meaning, but they are wrong.

I’m only going to take on one here, and I apologise if anyone has to amend their speech or their website as a result.

Loved ones.

Not everyone is loved, some because they have led sad, lonely lives, others because they did bad things.

They die too. They need funerals and their families are broken, and the depth of their pain makes the phrase ‘Loved one’ seem like a jeer.

Just saying.

So call them the dead, the dead one, the dead person, anything other than ‘loved one’. Call them by their name!

I know it’s awkward, but it will spare you the look of contempt you get when you say it to the wrong person.

Lecture over.”

New charity to help pay for funerals of babies and children

CFC

 

A new charity which will help bereaved parents with the cost of a baby or child’s funeral is being officially launched on Wednesday, July 23, with a special one-day seminar and exhibition at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

Child Funeral Charity (CFC), whose patron is well-known author and national newspaper advice columnist Bel Mooney, has been set up by a team of child and funeral industry professionals. It is being headed by experienced educationalist Roger Gale as chief executive officer, while Mary and Kevin Tomes at Colourful Coffins and Anne Barber from Civil Ceremonies, are charity trustees.

Full details of the charity will be announced to the funeral trade, and other professionals who work with bereaved parents at the seminar, which is entitled Time to Talk – a focus on Baby and Child Bereavement.

Roger Gale explains: “This event provides the perfect opportunity to create awareness of the new Child Funeral Charity and to call on everyone who works within the industry for their support.

“Although many funeral directors, clergy and celebrants don’t charge for children’s funerals, there are other expenses such as a coffin, a vehicle, flowers and service sheets for the ceremony that all add up. Whether a family has lost a baby through a pre-term loss or stillbirth; a child through a life limiting illness or something more sudden such as an accident; the last thing they want to worry about is how to pay for the funeral. That’s where CFC can step in, but in order to do so, we need the support of funeral industry professionals to work with us as preferred suppliers and to help with fundraising. This is a very emotional time for families and I am sure many in the trade will agree that anything we can do to help alleviate the financial burden will be very much appreciated.”

Delegates are expected to be drawn from a range of bereavement-related professionals, including funeral directors, hospice staff, registrars, hospital bereavement officers and/or midwives, bereavement counsellors, other charities, celebrants, faith representatives and others.

As well as providing financial support, if required, CFC can also put families in touch with other appropriate bereavement charities.

If you’d like to go along and support this new charity, and find out more about it, event details and booking form are on this link or you can download them here: CFC Seminar Flyer — CFC Booking form

enquiries@childfuneralcharity.org.uk

or call 01480 276088

 

Song for a baby

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-xmLD85M8o

Evelyn found this – played in memory of a baby

The morning cold and raining,
dark before the dawn could come
How long in twilight waiting
longing for the rising sun
ohoh ohoh Oh ooh

You came like crashing thunder
breaking through these walls of stone
You came with wide eyed wonder
into all this great unknown
ohoh ohoh Ohoooh Oohh

Hush now don’t you be afraid
I promise you I’ll always stay
I’ll never be that far away
I’m right here with you

[Chorus]
You’re so amazing you shine like the stars
You’re so amazing the beauty you are
You came blazing right into my heart
You’re so amazing you are…
You are

You came from heaven shining
Breath of God still flows from fresh on you
The beating heart inside me
Crumbled at this one so new
ohoh ohoh Oooh ooohhh

No matter where or how far you wander
For a thousand years or longer
I will always be there for you
Right here with you

[Chorus]

I hope your tears are few and fast
I hope your dreams come true at last
I hope you find love that goes on and on and on and on and on
I hope you wish on every star
I hope you never fall too far
I hope this world can see how wonderful you are

[Chorus]

You’re so amazing you shine like the stars
You’re so amazing the beauty you are
You came blazing right into my heart
You’re so amazing you are…
You are