As a Funeral Director working from an extremely busy location, this last 12 months have been incredibly hard, as I can imagine it has for the majority of my colleagues the length and breadth of the country or in fact the globe. We have been largely unrecognized throughout the pandemic, and have seen so many changes within our working environment I’ve lost count! The rules have been somewhat hazy most of the time, with different crematoriums adopting different working methods to each other? Cemeteries working to a different set of guidelines again? Hospital mortuaries all doing different things? Then you come to Funeral Directors who are doing a whole plethora of things completely different again! It has been a minefield from the very start, one which throughout has been made to work through hard work and dedication from all in the funeral industry.
Where all these rules that we have come to understand become very difficult is when we have to explain it to families. Here is where numerous problems occur, oddly a lot of people still think funerals are a free for all? They cannot comprehend why churches are closed? they do not understand why some funeral directors air on the side of caution, and do not dressed deceased that have sadly passed away with Covid-19, not are the coffins open for viewing, whereas some funeral directors are operating as a “business as usual” ethos. The company I work for thankfully are taking staff safety very seriously, and have put in place measures to ensure we all get to go home safely to our own families. I’m pleased that we have adopted this measure, as if we operated during this pandemic as a “business as usual” funeral directors, I would of hung my hat up and placed my gloves down a long time ago.
What I have noticed though throughout this pandemic and the reduced numbers at Cremations and Burials, is how personal the services have become, personally I feel cramming 100s of people into a crematorium is not the right thing to do, and takes away the personal element of the funeral, having listened to hundreds of eulogies over the years, I have found over the past year how deep and meaningful the eulogy has become, they no longer need to delve into the usual born at? Raised where? Worked at? etc as the eulogy no longer needs to cater for the friends that show up, who might not of been in touch with the person for 20 years, but feels they have the right to be at the funeral, the eulogy and the way the service is carried out, no longer needs to chronologically chart a persons life, so mere passers by understand who the person was in the coffin at the front?
The contents and context of a service now is so deeply personal I feel really connected as I listen, I start to understand how the person worked, and where I may not be able to know what the families personal moments were like with their loved ones. I get a sense of the bonds as the stories and memories are so very personal and from the heart. Having 500 people at your funeral does not make that funeral any more important than having 10 close family members who shared everyday with that person, for me a funeral is a private moment for a family to say goodbye, prior to the pandemic I’ve witnessed families holding back their emotions as they have a hundred eyes bearing down on them, I’ve seen families become overwhelmed due to the amounts of people showing up, I’ve listened to eulogies where the family have grappled to try and make the eulogy understandable to everybody attending, only to miss certain things they wanted to talk about, as given the amount of time they have they figure people won’t understand what they are saying or talking about.
To summarise I know many will no doubt disagree with me and feel having dozens at a funeral is what makes the funeral, I will have to respectfully disagree, a funeral should have the people who are the absolute closest to that person, and the whole contents should be about them and the person they’ve lost, since the pandemic started and through the minefield of information given out and the varied amounts of procedure changes, I feel having sat through so many services, is that almost everyone I’ve conducted has been profoundly personal and extremely meaningful throughout, not one family has said to me afterwards that they were unhappy with how things had gone, nor has anybody since day one commented that they wished more could attend, that goes for everybody I’ve looked after regardless of age! Because everything was so immensely personal any thoughts of packed chapels and overcrowded cemeteries are mere things in the backs of peoples minds. How you explain it to the family is key critical in how they will manage the differences.
I feel the pandemic has unwittingly made funerals more personal, and only time will tell if we move back to how we was before? Will crematoriums want packed to the rafters chapels? Will cemeteries want hundreds standing all over graves trying to get as close as possible? Will families want to move back to writing eulogies to accommodate the masses rather than it being deep and personal? Only time will tell and until it does we will carry on in the caring and empathetic manner we always do. Stay safe guys Paul 16.03.2021