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Friday, 19 October 2018

Funerals 2

So, what do I do after I've been to talk to the family?

The first thing is to type up my notes from the visit - often not an easy task as I have difficulties in reading my own handwriting!  If the visit has been the usual mixture of tears and laughter I won't have been exactly careful how I write and the information will be in a very haphazard order.  I need to get the notes sorted as soon as possible if I am to make any sense of them.

Then I have to contact anyone else who needs to be on board.  If the service is to be at a crematorium this isn't difficult - I just tell the Funeral Director the hymns and any special instruction and s/he does the rest.  If it's in church I have to check that no-one else will be doing things in church at the same time eg organ tuners or flower arrangers.  I need to find an organist.  The churchwardens need to know what is happening so they can make sure that there will be a verger or sidesmen and indeed that the church will be unlocked.  Cleaners need to know so the church will be at its best - dead or dying flowers never improved any service.  Heating may be needed.  If the burial is to be in a churchyard the plot needs to be allocated and marked ready for the gravedigger.  This is quite a long list and as I am no longer "the vicar" of the churches where I conduct funerals I have to be extra careful to make sure that everyone is on-board..  

But it is in my study that the real work of preparing a funeral is done.  I do a lot of funerals but I care deeply about each one.  I know that there is a family missing a much loved member.  No funeral is ever routine.  I am to thank God for a life which was unique and to speak on behalf of his/her family.  It is there in front of my computer screen that my hardest job is done.  Often I have listened to deeply moving stories and my own emotions may be in turmoil.  I need to pray not just for the families but for myself, that I may say helpful things.

The day of the funeral I make sure I have nothing to do before the funeral and these days, preferably nothing else to do all day.  That's a luxury I couldn't have before I retired.  I wear robes to take the service but I also make sure that my day clothes are suitable for that particular funeral - for example if a woman died of breast cancer the family may have decided to wear pink so I wear a pink  clerical shirt in case I am expected to go to the reception afterwards.  I try and be at least three quarters of an hour early at church (or twenty minutes early at a crematorium) to make sure everything is ready and to give myself time to talk to mourners.  

Most funerals take between twenty and thirty minutes - at a crematorium the time is very strictly regulated but there is more leeway for a service in church.  Some families want to read poems or read tributes and I have to keep an eye on the time at a crematorium chapel and may need to speed up the rest of the service.  I also need to keep everything suitably respectful without being "heavy".

After the service I go to the reception or wake if asked.  I always print out the text of my address or eulogy and give this to the family.  This is usually appreciated but I give it in an envelope so if they want to they can bin it unread.  

The family will be in my prayers for quite a while after the funeral and I'll usually try and visit after the funeral and at the first anniversary of the death. 


  1. That is quite an extensive list, I am sure it is extremely appreciated at such a stressful time. I love the idea of getting the text of the address or eulogy, as you don't always take on board what is been said when emotions are running high.

  2. My goodness, I had no idea of the magnitude of planning and executing such an event. I would imagine though, that the thoroughness has to do with your dedication to your calling and I am certain all the planning and seeing to detail is greatly appreciated. So much to think about at such a time. You are indeed a special person to be able to see to all of this.