Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Three funerals in two days part II.

Well, it's not really a very good idea, and I'm certainly not bragging about it. The funerals went well, I think. I won't do it again unless the reasons are at least as pressing as they were this time.Thoughts arising:

1. I'd say it's only possible at all, if you can clear enough preparation time in advance, before any of them take place.

2. I found it very important to sequence visiting the families and assembling the scripts in the best order. You really don't want three family visits buzzing round your head with nothing written down from any of them...the first funeral was a complex and rather tragic one, and they wanted the family visit as late as possible to collect comments and tributes from as many people as possible. So although this was the first funeral to take place, I wrote it last. Etc. Boring logistics, but to get this sequencing wrong would really be disastrous. However, this means holding your nerve and writing up a ceremony the day before the funeral...having cleared the decks by writing the others first.

3. It caused me huge anxiety when it needn't have: is this really the right CD?(yes, of course, you've already checked it.) Have I mixed the names between families?(no.) Am I heading for the right crem? (yes) will the train get me there in time (yes) will there be a taxi at the station ( yes, there always is, and anyway you have some taxi phone numbers with you - so shut up, you daft old bag...) etc etc. And all this was purely because of the IDEA that I had three in two days, which was exceptional, so worrying, so, I'd better worry... Once they were written, rehearsed and ready to go, I really could have stopped worrying about the logistics. Anyway, I can't control the whole damned universe. Roads occasionally get blocked, trains break down, though not, thankfully, very often. (Incidentally, anyone got any smart ideas about what to do if your journey to the funeral becomes impossible?)

4. This worrying is not very mindful. Though the mindful looking at the coffin just before starting and putting self briefly in present moment went well all three times..

5. Huge relief and big slump afterwards, of course. Watched "East Enders" AND "Holby City," for goodness' sake....nothing like junk telly to wind down for an hour two. Plus a drop of the old Limestone Coast CabSauv.

6. Can't go hillwalking, too much snow (I'm not Sherpa bleedin' Tenzing) but will look foward to it, need some physical exercise.

So did the funerals themselves suffer because of this close run? That's the only important question. Hard to answer - I really don't think so, although here's a trap I nearly fell into: I sent a draft to the family involved in the final funeral, they changed one thing, and said it was fine, pleased with it etc. Because I was a bit pushed, I was on the verge of just printing it off. "Well, they think it's OK." That would be a dreadful abnegation of responsibility, quality control etc. They have little experience of funerals, I have quite a lot. So get on with your job, Gloria, and stop short-cutting! I checked myself, and went through it again, tweaking a couple of phrases, reading it aloud again, getting a better "lift-off."

But if I did three funerals every week, there's no question I wouldn't be doing them so well. One's mental and emotional powers get drained in this activity, and need time well away from it. Some people may be able to manage three in a week regularly, but not GM. So no, I won't lay down absolute rules about frequency when I take over, but I will certainly lay down guidelines very firmly, and interview and observe those who do take three per week regularly. And of course if they are selling the bereaved short for their own profit, they'll be next in a box.

Still waiting for the spare parts for the damn tanks.


  1. It was a funeral director who most calmed me once when I had too much on. He said, "But you've got it all written down. What could possibly go wrong?" And of course there is much reassurance to be taken from a well-wrought script; it needs only to be declaimed.

    I'm always amazed that FDs, for all their entirely understandable paranoia about getting everything just right and timed to the last sec, never have a contingency for an absent celebrant. I wonder what this says?

    GM, I stand in awe of your feat. Junk telly and good red wine could even be proof of the existence of God?

  2. I think, Charles, it may say that FDs rely on divine providence to get the minister through....but if so, then pagans, atheists etc are on their own...
    Must be an awful lot of funereal probs in the current weather. One wonders how Jonathan, Rupert, XP et al are getting on. We don't actually have much snow round here, except higher up of course. I read on the Beeb website this a.m. that for burials in eastern Siberia they have to light a fire on the grave site, wait for it to melt the permafrost, dig down 15 cm or so, light another fire....not that bad yet I guess, even in Sheffield or the Highlands.
    The red wine/junk telly is a better line of proof than many I've encountered - h'm. I shall look into this.
    Kind words as ever - but it may be the only awesome aspect was my foolishness in taking it on in the first place!