Saturday, 10 March 2012
I urge you not to miss a contribution to The Good Funeral Guide, by Rupert Callender of The Green Funeral Company. As a commenter says, this is a meditation of the highest order: calm, profound, poetic and moving. Sample below:
As undertakers, we work in an area where meanings blur and identities become less certain. For us, a body is just that: a body. Something awkward and heavy to be treated practically between us, to be lifted and moved, dressed or washed. But when they are in the presence of those who loved them, they become people again, suffused with personality and history, mute vessels for love and longing, themselves but changed. It is to witness this change that we gently lead the living toward, no more certain as to what it means than they, only sure that it is as important as it is painful.
He calls himself an undertaker. I think he's rather more than what we customarily mean by that description. It's unfair to expect all "funeral directors" * to have Rupert's qualities, but it really would help the living as well as the dead if more of them did.
* The "" are because many or most funeral directors don't, actually, do what the title suggests. They organise journeys, make arrangements, and they are body handlers. This latter function is one most of us probably don't want to perform, and I greatly respect undertakers for doing so - it can be a very grim side of the job. But many or most of the ones I work with not only don't direct the funeral ceremony (that is, the funeral) they aren't even in the room!
Inside the room - sad people, sometimes weeping, sometimes laughing; music and song; friends and relatives and a celebrant talking about the dead person, about the meaning of what is happening, about...etc.
Often, outside the room, funeral director and assistants talking thus: "I see the Arsenal done alright last night." "yeah, but that late penalty, I mean..." OK, we all need a bit of a respite from demanding jobs, and they will have heard enough funeral ceremonies to last them eternity itself - but the people who direct funerals are vicars and priests, celebrants and ministers. Not "funeral directors."
Rupert Callender and Claire direct funerals. They are a lot more than undertakers.
Still reading this? Nip over and have a look at what Ru has wrote.