Thursday, 19 February 2009

Narrow Perspective

When I was a "trainee" priest an older wiser colleague said that the trouble with Funeral Directors was that they thought they were 'directing' the funeral and that ministers thought of them as 'undertakers'. This bears some thought.
One director/undertaker runs an ad in the paper which says

  • My Death Wish
  • Don't go to Church
  • Don't like wasting money
  • Care for my partner and my children
  • Don't want all the pomp and costs of a full funeral.
  • I am choosing a short. simple, non religious
  • MINI-FUNERAL at a cheap price

I actually think that this is socially inept and bereft of understanding what a funeral is actually about.
While I think it is possible for funerals to be an outrageous financial burden, this is not the only factor that needs to be taken into account.
I say this not because I wish to preserve the religious component when clearly many people are alienated by this, but I don't actually believe that many undertakers are better qualified to 'direct' funerals.
In fact I could give you any number of instances when undertakers have been blasé with their charges to the point of an affront, treating the dead as if they were hunks of concrete to be carted around.
They often lack the subtlety or capability of dealing with people who are actually grieving. Too many funerals fail to confront grief, and become sort of like birthday parties where the particular celebration is that the guest of honour happens to be dead.

At the very least, the religious (any religion really) helps us to confront our mortality.

What does this particular ad mean when it says it doesn't want all the pomp of a "full funeral"?
Is it somehow promoting a part-funeral, or a less than complete obsequy and why?
If I know anything after 30 years of taking funerals it is that you don't get a second chance to get it right.
Unfortunately the narrow viewpoint that this sort of company promotes,
  • as cheap and as quick as possible,
  • preferably without any grief or sadness
  • an alleged celebration of life but no appreciation of death
I suspect does more damage than good. This doesn't need to be expensive, or religious but it shouldn't be cheap and nasty. Funerals are important. Important enough to get right.

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