Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Way to go

Apparently the traditional funeral is a thing of the past and there's a growing trend towards either no funeral at all - a quick cremation and that's that - or an elaborate themed funeral that's more like a fancy wedding.

A lot of people who object to the formality and rising cost of a conventional funeral are keeping it simple with a cardboard or wicker coffin and a speedy cremation. And that's it. No luxury coffins, no hearse, no besuited undertakers, no priest, no pomp and ceremony. Just a streamlined despatch.

There are still objections from some that such a down-to-earth approach doesn't show enough respect for the dead person. But to my mind, what shows respect is not a lot of funereal pomp but remembering the person fondly in the years to come and appreciating what they added to your life.

On the other hand, more and more people are going in for glitzy funerals featuring fancy dress, personal mementos, special locations, or horse-drawn carriages. The occasion is seen as a celebration of life rather than a sombre farewell, and a chance to recall the dead person's big interests and passions.

Well, that's certainly an improvement on the pervading gloom and despondency of the customary funeral, with everyone dressed in black, muttering polite condolences and all looking as if the world is about to end.

But personally I'm all in favour of the streamlined option. When I finally pop my clogs, I want the simplest possible departure - rapid cremation and no fuss and bother. Instead of spending thousands on the old-style send-off, whoever I leave behind should jet off on a luxury holiday somewhere and just think of me occasionally while they're sightseeing or enjoying the local cuisine.

Better a bit of personal indulgence than fat profits for some funeral parlour.

26 comments:

Bijoux said...

I've not heard of the fancy funerals. My cousin died in July and didn't want any sort of service or burial. She was widowed and no children. I sort of felt bad for her siblings and nieces and nephews, who were close to her. I think some sort of goodbye is helpful for most people.

Jenny Woolf said...

I think I'd probably leave it up to those who have to arrange the funeral. It seems to be different for everyone.

Grannymar said...


My instructions for Elly are to deal with me quickly wherever I fall and no dragging me half way round the world/country for a funeral. No black, no flowers but go party remembering the good times.

Nick said...

Bijoux: But couldn't you say goodbye to a photo? To me that makes more sense than saying goodbye to a wooden box.

Jenny: Yes, at the end of the day, although I know how I'd like to be despatched, whoever survives me might want to do something quite different. I've no problem with that, as I won't be around to complain....

Nick said...

Grannymar: My sentiments entirely! Just dispose of me in the simplest way possible and then go have a hell of a party. In fact I should put that in my will - I instruct you all to party like there's no tomorrow.

Bijoux said...

I think she was cremated. Most people have memorial services here where they have photos of the loved one at various stages of life and people send flowers and provide a luncheon. It's a nice way to say goodbye and express your sympathy to family.

Nick said...

Bijoux: Memorial services are quite common in Britain too. I've been to several. They're a good way to remember and commemorate someone.

tammy j said...

i have instructions for immediate cremation. the cheapest and simplest there is. no service of any kind. no morbid body viewing...
just clean and simple.
the little urn of ashes will be buried by my bob in a cemetery i guess.
and like you say... i won't know anyway. but that's the plan stan.
the marine has agreed to it. and he's my only family.
i agree with everything you've written here.
even with death... we minimalists are sentimental with memories not things. and many don't understand that.
and i can understand the others' views too. it's whatever helps the persons going through it i guess.
but it has gotten to be ridiculously BIG BUSINESS. just like everything else it seems.

Nick said...

Tammy: Sentimental with memories and not things - that's exactly it. The swankiest coffin ever is no substitute for tender memories of someone.

Viewing the body is the weirdest thing, but it's still quite common here in Ireland. Why view someone who no longer shows a flicker of life? It seems quite morbid to me too.

It's big business all right. £500 just for a coffin? It's about time IKEA did self-assembly coffins at a fraction of the price.

Helen Devries said...

Here it is forbidden to bury humans on your property...they insist on putting the body in concrete niches in the local cemetery from which the remains are extracted some ten years later and, seemingly, dumped.

A friendly policeman has told us that when one of us dies the survivor is to inform anyone interested that the body is being shipped 'home'....and that any enquiries as to recently turned earth are to be explained as the burial of a dog.

Nick said...

Helen: Some wonderful post-death jiggery-pokery there! Personally I wouldn't care (I wouldn't know) if my remains were dumped after ten years, but some people would be very upset about it.

Rummuser said...

In the last six years I have had to send off my late wife and my late father to the other side and on both occasions, I simply took the bodies to the electric crematoriums, cremated, collected the ashes, dispresed the ashes in our local river and that was that.

I am however a maverick. Most Indians will have elaborate rituals and poojas afterwards and spend a lot of money to ensure that the gone don't come back to haunt them. When I tell them that neither my late wife nor my late father have ever come bcak to haunt me, they don't believe me.

Nick said...

Ramana: That's exactly my preferred disposal/dispersal arrangements.

I love the idea that if you don't give someone a grand send-off they'll come back to haunt you. Okay, and I'm a pineapple. Glad to hear neither your wife or father have haunted you as yet!

kylie said...

Nick,
I think you are conflating expensive funerals with ceremonial ones but it need not be that way. I recently attended a paupers funeral and it was simple but there were still nice words said and bagpipes played and hymns sung. The man was farewelled in a way that recognised his humanity, his contribution and achievements, even though the people who attended were mostly just acquaintances. And it was good that he was honoured that way because there is really nobody to remember him into the future.

A ceremonial goodbye is important in many ways, even if it is casual. Funerals are not for the dead, they are for the living and ceremony helps with resolution. A woman I knew cremated her mother without anybody even knowing the old lady was dead and it was hurtful to a lot of people who would have liked to say their farewells and publicly acknowledge their affection for her. It struck me as deeply selfish.

Nick said...

Kylie: Well, as others have said, it's a question of horses for courses and what suits one person might not suit another. If people want a high-profile grand funeral, of course that's up to them, but I wouldn't want that for myself.

I find the death of Amy Winehouse intensely sad, I think about her a lot, but I didn't feel any need to attend her funeral.

As Tammy says "it's whatever helps the persons going through it I guess".

kylie said...

I didnt say high profile and grand, I said ceremonial. and when you go, your style doesnt matter because its about the people who are left

Nick said...

Kylie: So by ceremonial you mean, say, a coffin, a hearse, a service and a burial?

Suburbia said...

I love the idea of everyone using the cash for a holiday - so much nicer than all the dreary fuss. Give me cardboard or wicker when the time comes!

Nick said...

Suburbia: It's a great excuse for an exotic holiday. Instead of sitting around moping, jet off somewhere exciting and think how the person who's gone would have loved that beach or that museum or that hotel.

kylie said...

No, i mean whatever suits the mourners. To me that includes a service but not the burial, hearse and men in suits. It could be a surfer's paddle out or a bikies memorial ride. The point is that everyone takes some time to get together with the purpose of remembering and honouring a person. Just disposing the body and announcing the person dead is not enough

CheerfulMonk said...

Andy and I both plan to be cremated, and neither one of us want an obituary in the paper. Kaitlin and Torben would probably spread the ashes up on the land, but that's their call. We're still building great family memories now while we still can.

Nick said...

Kylie: I guess you're right, some people do feel the need for a communal remembrance of some sort. That could be awkward though if the immediate next of kin favours something much simpler.

Jean: I agree, the important thing is building great family or friendship memories you can look back on in the years to come.

Rose Blackthorn said...

I'm with Kylie.

Funerals have little to do with the dead and everything to do with the living. It's good to acknowledge a life lived, hopefully lived well and to say goodbye.

I'm thinking about having my funeral when I'm alive. I quite like the idea of plumed horses, properly attired undertakers. Not bothered about the coffin as I'm being cremated. It's important to have a proper send off to the next part of the journey.

Oh yes, my funeral is already paid for.

Nick said...

Rose: A funeral while you're alive? How does that work exactly? How would you explain the absence of a dead body?

A proper send-off? I don't believe there's any next part of the journey, death seems pretty final to me.

Keith said...

You say people show respect at the funeral, that's no good, it's too late then. I just wish my dysfunctional family would show me some love and respect while I'm still in the land of the living.

Due to the rising costs of a funeral, I've decided that I'm not having one; I'm staying here!

Nick said...

Keith: I agree, love and respect while you're still alive is what counts. I never got much love and respect from my father unfortunately.

You're refusing to die? Well, that's one solution, I guess! So where do you get the immortality pill? Do they stock it at Boots?