Part Three - Your Ceremony
"To thine own
self be true."
This is the part where you can really make your mark on proceedings and help to create a funeral that is uniquely personal to you. It could simply be choosing your favourite flower or a poem, or, later, going as far as writing your own life story and recording a video message for everyone so you can actually be seen and heard on the day. It’s really up to you how much or how little you want to be involved. And, of course, you can start to use the information you gathered together in Part One of the course – for example, your interests may dictate the style of vehicle you arrive in, or your unique style may influence how you want to be dressed. And don’t forget these farewell wishes of yours can be changed or added to at any time.
Choosing a Coffin
You won’t believe how many different types of coffin are now available, both in terms of materials used, their shape and colour, not to mention cost. From your traditional wooden coffins to hand-painted caskets, from sheep’s wool or woven banana leaf, to coffins shaped liked aeroplanes or canal boats. I’ve seen all sorts of lovely personalised coffins over the years with pictures of butterflies, steam trains, football shields and lavender fields. There have been beautiful willow caskets interwoven with wild flowers for natural burials. And, perhaps most touching, cardboard coffins decorated by the family, with children’s painted handprints, photographs stuck on, glitter, stickers and hand-written messages of love.
You may feel coffins are a waste of money, considering what ultimately happens to them, and the most basic and inexpensive model available is your preference. And that makes perfect sense. But if you think you’d like to make a more colourful statement when you arrive for your final farewell… go for it. It’s a very personal choice– and the choice is, as I said, wide and varied – so rather than me recommend any particular manufacturers, have a browse online to see what’s currently available.
Like coffins, floral tributes come in all sorts of wonderful shapes, sizes and designs these days. From your traditional casket display and individual letters, to baskets of fruits and veg, pints of Guinness and snooker tables! But I think the nicest floral tribute I’d seen was a simple bunch of flowers cut from the lady’s garden that very morning by her children and tied with a yellow ribbon. You may have a favourite flower, a meaningful colour you’d like represented, a seasonal display, or flowers and plants which reflect a favourite holiday destination or where you were born, such as Scottish thistles. You may want to cheer everyone up with big, yellow sunflower heads. Or, perhaps, letting your loved ones decide could be their way of ‘saying it with flowers’…
What do you want to be dressed in?
Do you have a favourite dress? A cup-winning football shirt? A shade of lipstick you’re never without? If so, and you’d like to be wearing them as you are laid to rest, make a note of it. Families I meet do often tell me they’ve chosen something special for their loved ones – ‘mum has her favourite scarf’ or ‘dad’s wearing his best tie’. We’ve even had Santa socks and gardening gloves! There are, however, crematorium guidelines regarding clothing and coffin content in order to minimise air pollutants, ie. clothing should be of natural fibres, no PVC, glass or plastic. There will also be regulations for natural burial grounds. But, those aside, there is still plenty of scope for personal touches.
Making an entrance
Would you be happy to arrive at your ceremony in a beautifully polished hearse or would you like to consider another choice of vehicle? You could have a motorbike, a horse and carriage, a flatbed truck or a tractor. If you served in the Armed Forces you could have a flag bearer from the Royal British Legion or representatives from your regiment as a ‘guard of honour’. I’ve seen some wonderful welcomes for people, from Scooter Club mates revving their Vespa’s and Lambretta’s, to a beautifully behaved line of rescue Greyhounds from the kennels where the lady worked. There have been New Orlean’s-style jazz bands and the haunting sound of a lone piper. All of these ‘entrances’ helped to set a special tone for the ceremony and give it an individual feel from the very start.
Do you have any thoughts on who you might like to ‘invite’ to your ceremony? Just so you know, you can’t actually prevent anyone from attending your funeral ceremony if it’s in a crematorium chapel or church, as they are seen as public events. Private ceremonies are another matter. But would you prefer a small gathering of immediate family and close friends, or would you like to know that anyone who ever knew you – from school friends and work colleagues, to fellow club members and pub regulars – were gathered to see you off? Obviously a lot of this depends on when your time comes, who you still know, and if you’ve outlived others, but you might like to set out your preferences now.