Funeral Directors don’t always give you a choice.
Hell hath no fury like a Celebrant scorned!
I recently officiated at the funeral of a ninety-year-old man. He and his wife lived in a nursing home and had formed many friendships there. He was a popular resident, a talented musician, a charmer and an all-round gentle man. He died in the nursing home, his home, with his wife by his side.
The funeral service was held in a Crematorium. Nine people were present; not one was a resident – a friend – from the nursing home. I knew the nursing home had held funeral services there before,, allowing residents to say their farewells too. So important when you have been part of someone’s life, created a friendship and been a companion.
When I suggested to the Funeral Director that this would have been a better option, the response was, “It’s just too much of a hassle for us”. I was gobsmacked and surprised because I considered this one of the better, more forward-thinking Funeral Directors. He went on to say that if they had been asked, they would have done it, but they won’t suggest it.
This was repeated the following week when I went to meet a family. They had a very clear and non-traditional idea of what the service should be. The family had the music, and the choreography worked out who was saying what and when. There were two pieces of music in addition to the reflection piece, three slide shows divided up into the thirds of his life and a very poignant saying-goodbye ritual for the family. The flowers were daffodils and leeks, the deceased being a proud Welshman.
When we went through everything, I realised that timing would be an issue. The celebration was in the crematorium, and although this private chapel is generous with its time slots, it still wasn’t long enough.
The family told me that they had asked for longer but were told by the funeral Director that it would cost an additional £800. (That is not true, it is £425).
I suggested that the local Community Hall would have been a better option – this was never discussed or suggested by the Funeral Director, and they didn’t realise it could have been done. After writing the eulogy, we had to go through it and remove some of the content, which is always hard. When I challenged the Funeral Director about it again I was told that if families don’t ask for it, they don’t suggest it.
This is quite typical of the attitude of the majority of Funeral Directors. I liken it to buying a new washing machine from Currys (other retailers are available).
You go into the shop and are greeted by a friendly salesperson. You explain that you need a new washing machine, and you are shown a selection of five different brands and their models. That is all they offer, and you feel pressured into buying one. You might be offered an extended warranty too. They do not deviate from the “script”.
This is what it can be like organising a funeral with a Funeral Director. You choose the coffin from a catalogue and the same with the flowers. You will be asked to provide three pieces of music, one for entry, one for exit and one for reflection. And then, of course, there is the poem or reading. You will be allocated a celebrant if that is your preferred officiant. You will be offered, and I quote from a Funeral director’s website, “Cremation or burial at any local crematorium or burial site” or at the Funeral Director’s chapel if they have one. You are then encouraged to use the Funeral Cars to get to and from the venue, which adds more expense. And don’t get me started on embalming! This is not essential unless the body has to be repatriated, but some FDs would have you believe that it is. There is nothing wrong with using a Funeral director and having a traditional service if it is an informed choice.
Not all Funeral Directors are the same; there are many modern, forward-thinking companies emerging who will support you if you want to go “off-piste”. You just have to find the right one for you.
Funeral Directors are the gatekeepers when it comes to funeral services, but it doesn’t have to be that way. This is what drove me to train with the Coffin Club UK to become a Celebrant plus.
What sets me apart from other Celebrants is that you can get me involved from the moment your loved one has taken their last breath.
I help you by providing independent support such as choosing the right venue for you, finding the right Funeral Director that will fully engage with what your choices are if you are using one – it is not a legal requirement, moving the body, sourcing a coffin, flowers, rituals and of course writing the Eulogy.
After this exciting new way of being, I went on to do Coffin Club Masterclass training and founded the first Coffin Club in Scotland!
What’s a Coffin Club? I hear you ask.
The Coffin Club provides a safe space for people of all ages to come along and speak about death and dying. We are about empowering you to take control of your or a loved one’s ending by debunking the myths and misinformation surrounding funerals.
At the workshops, you can find out what your rights are, and the different options open to you and learn from guest speakers who work in end-of-life and the funerary business. You even have the option to buy and decorate your own coffin!
There are so many things that you could include in your celebration of life, but your loved ones need to know. Some examples are:
Memory Making – have a memory book or box at the ready for your guests to share their memories of you creating a lasting memorial.
Picture storytelling – choose favourite photographs of you, your family, holidays, favourite places or screenshots of meaningful messages that you treasure to create a slide show or have some of your videos shown. You could record a video or an audio message you would like to leave for your friends and family or, as in one of the funerals I officiated at, have a letter to your loved ones read out.
Get creative – invite your friends and family to draw, write or paint on your coffin. Or if you’re not artistic, decoupage some meaningful pictures onto it. Have a fun day reminiscing about your life and loves!
Hire a minibus and decorate it as you would a wedding car to take you and your family to and from the venues!
You are an individual, and your funeral should be as unique as you are, not dictated by how much hassle it will cause a funeral director.
If you would like to find out more about me, my life as a Celebrant and the other services I offer, please get in touch. I’m passionate about good endings. My funeral is planned, and if you would like to find out more about how to plan yours, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me and have a free discovery call.