The final article in a series of three exploring the immediate aftermath of a death in the family and making appropriate funeral arrangements – in our case for a non-religious funeral.

Mum’s funeral was to take place at 11.30am on the 29th January, the family had discussed and decided that the day was to be a true celebration of my mum’s life, bright clothes, smiling faces, happy memories.

The celebration started the evening before with a meal attended by the closest family members who knew my Mum well and we shared many stories about the happy times that we had enjoyed together.  My mum always enjoyed a party and really always would do anything to ensure it was enjoyed by all – tomorrow was to be the same!

On the morning of the funeral we met with the funeral director at my stepfather’s home where the funeral process really took over. The funeral directors were very professional, suitably grave, but everything seemed very formal. They certainly were all in black with black ties and black cars which really did seem to replace our intended celebration with grief.

We arrived at the crematorium, and waited for our turn to enter as the previous funeral party was running over.   At this stage I was asked if I wanted to help carry the coffin.  This had been dicussed earlier and I had declined, however at the last minute we were asked whether any mourners would like to carry the coffin and I felt obliged to do so.

The service started, the Celebrant delivered the agreed words in a very upbeat and relaxed manner, excellently supported by my daughter. Unfortunately the chosen music was mixed up and we got Morecambe and Wise singing Bring me Sunshine for the period of reflection, rather than the chosen piece by Andrea Bocelli!  Still we all smiled about that afterwards.

All too soon the allocated time had gone and the next party were already waiting at the front door of the Crematorium, we all then left through the back door and headed for the hotel.

Before we left , “What did we wish to do with the flowers?”  Did we want to leave them at the crematorium, take them with us, or perhaps deliver them to the local Hospice, which semed a little insensitive in my view.

In the end we asked the Funeral director to deliver them to the hotel.

Post Funeral we had the planned reception at a local hotel which went very well, everybody seemed to be in good spirits and our message of celebration was definitely adopted by all. My mum would have really enjoyed herself!

Lessons learnt.

  1. The time allocated for a service in a crematorium is too little. Some crematoria do allow a longer service for an increased fee but I was only made aware of this after the event.
  2. It may even be possible for a cremation to have the service elsewhere and take as long as you like.
  3. Decide what you will be doing with the flowers.
  4. Consider not having the usual black cars if you want a more relaxed feel and ask the funeral directors to dress in a more relaxed manner too.
  5. It was a cold day, make sure there are warm drinks and food on offer – the chips on the buffet went very quickly!
  6. With a cremation, also discuss what should happen to the ashes; still unresolved in my mum’s case which apparently isn’t unusual. The Funeral Directors have been holding several peoples ashes for several years!
  7. Try and get friends and family together for an informal event before the day of the funeral, this worked well for us, probably as many of the family had travelled to be there and were all in a hotel the night before. This allowed honest emotions to be expressed without the traditional funeral paraphernalia.

I hope these articles have provided a more personal perspective on the first week or so following a death in the family.  Of course, everyone’s preferences will be different but that’s all the more reason to start the conversation as early as possible and document their final wishes.