Undertakers presently have three distinct roles calling for very different skills. They are:

Tradespeople skilled in transporting and looking after dead bodies

Event planners who source, instruct and orchestrate other providers

Guides who will listen to you carefully, make you aware of your choices and help you make your way through unfamiliar territory. They will make suggestions and help you create a send-off for the person who has died which will be, both, worthy of that person and, also, of immeasurable emotional value to you. Of all the services a funeral director offers, this is the one with far and away the highest value. Some—just some—are brilliant at it.


Arranging a funeral is a fairly complex task which must be completed to a deadline and got right. There is no margin for error.

That’s why most funeral directors have control freak side to their natures. It stems both from a terror of getting it wrong and from the fact that many of their clients are totally dependent on them. Attention to detail is vital. Nothing could be worse than arriving late at the crematorium, or getting there only to find that the funeral cannot go ahead because the paperwork was late.

Funeral directors tend not to get it wrong. Scandals, glitches, even, are few.

Military precision is what undertakers do best. They have systems. Procedures. A way of doing things, the same way every time. Foolproof. You can see how they can get to be inflexible stick-in-the-muds. It’s the paranoia that keeps them up to the mark.