Ru and Claire Callander of The Green Funeral Company, field-leaders as Funeral Directors share their thoughts on what makes a good funeral.
Full of character, wit and wisdom, they shared these thoughts at a typically spirited session at the 2014 Good Funeral Awards called: Grief – it’s not about the car.
They told how it’s been for them over the past few years ploughing their own furrow, offering bespoke funerals, helping families do everything from care of the body to delivering the ceremony and organising burial or cremation… all the way the family want it to be.
- The children who started spontaneously singing over the music being played as they carried their gran into the church.
- Four sisters, spending the day on the pavement outside their home decorating their mum’s coffin (that was their way of honouring their mum; it was the funeral for them).
- Children decorating a white cardboard coffin in the basement of a packed pub in Plymouth – writing messages, drawing pictures, adding glitter.
- Hundreds of young people coming and going over a few days to say goodbye to their friend in their ‘chapel of rest’ – a comfy room with sofas, wood burner and a growing ‘shrine’ created by all the keepsakes and souvenirs the young folks left with their friend.
- Tearing linen strips with a woman so she could wash her mum. She’d lost her mum to dementia 10 years earlier. Now she layered her body with flowers as she said goodbye.
- Gently draping a calico shroud over a young girl killed in a car crash so her mum could feel her body, see her tattoo, hold her hand.
- The mum and dad that were able to keep their child at home for 10 days after death till it felt natural and right to let go.
- Scores of children over the years running in and out around body, coffin, grave over the years: moving easily and naturally through states…curious, fascinated, sad… bored now.
- Being made to go round to the back door at a crematorium because they don’t drive a shiny black hearse.
What they’ve learned
- Healing: Most of the ‘work’ – the healing process that goes on for us, coming to terms with a loss, grieving, letting go – happens between death and the funeral.
- Timing: There’s a culture of rushing families into decisions and an early slot at the crematorium. A mum who’d cared for an adult child for years spent two weeks with her after death till she was ready to let go.
- Active involvement: The more family and friends can be involved in plans, and especially ‘doing stuff’ alone or together to prepare for the funeral, the better. The funeral is then just a chance for those less affected to ‘catch up’ and say goodbye. Same at the funeral: take turns carrying the coffin, stop, rest, be normal.
- Children: Let children be part of it. The older generation is full of fear because of lack of connection with death.
- Photos: It’s useful to capture the day in photos – or at least one group photo with the coffin. Families really appreciate it after the event to remember who was there.