You don’t need me to tell you that there are a lot of deaths at the present time, and I’m truly sorry if you are affected. If you are, you are probably aware that your funeral choices are now limited.
Depending on where you go, you may be offered a direct cremation. That means the body is cremated with no celebrant or even mourner present. The next-of-kin is simply offered the ashes afterwards. That permits minimal closure and is not satisfactory for most people.
The fact that one crematorium only offers direct cremation doesn’t prevent you from having a more conventional service, if you are prepared to travel to another, as there’s no consistency across crematoria! Of course, the service attendees are limited to 10, so it may mean picking and choosing your guests. Also, respecting social distancing, you may be sitting apart from each other, so this is also far from an ideal scenario.
A number of people are considering a Memorial Service (or Celebration of Life) once lockdown is over. This has many advantages: you can hold it where you wish (it doesn’t have to be at the crematorium or chapel), you can invite whom you choose, you can serve up a spread on the premises and, most importantly, you can have the ceremony that you feel is most appropriate. It can be compered by anybody (including a celebrant, if you so desire) and a celebrant can give you ideas what can go into the ceremony and who could take part.
It may suit you to go to the crematorium garden (by arrangement) or elsewhere for a scattering of ashes ceremony, which a celebrant can lead for you.
It’s difficult to keep smiling in such times, but it’s certainly better to hang in there, rather than to despair. Despair isn’t going to profit anybody.
At least, we must be there for others (as so many of them are there for us).
I’m far from unique in that my income has shrivelled and is likely to get worse before it gets better. I’m self-employed, of course, and the government – at the time of writing – has not worked out how to help people like myself. It’s all rather alarming.
So I’m trying to keep going and preparing for coming out the other side.
There are still a few ceremonies on my lists. Weddings have (obviously) been re-arranged to the Autumn, so I’m looking forward to those, but there are no new bookings (understandably).
I’ve got three funerals booked this week. With a maximum of ten mourners allowed, it is somewhat unsatisfactory, but, at least, some closure can be offered to families.
My local crematorium is allowing such ceremonies to continue until 9th April. Then it will be up to families to organise a direct cremation (ie with no ceremony or attendees at all present). Eventually, there could be the option of arranging a celebration of life service when things are a lot calmer.
I have some experience of compiling and conducting memorial services, and would be glad to help families put one together.
I’d be happy to have a non-obligation chat with anyone who is baffled and bemused, and perhaps I can help them see straight in these bewildering times.
I make no apology for adding a few random thoughts to the thousands of COVID-19-related posts already published. It’s a pandemic, after all, so we can’t help but be affected in some way. Moreover, nobody really knows what will happen next.
I am a civil celebrant, not a doctor. My thoughts may not resonate as sensible or practical. Things are moving very quickly. What I say today may be invalid by tomorrow. However, here goes.
From my perspective, I am currently still being asked to conduct funerals. At my latest, I had planned to invite the mourners to use discretion and be aware of the possible consequences of making physical contact with each other. However, as soon as they met, they fell into each others’ arms, so there was no point. It’s a difficult one, because a funeral is so emotive, and touch can be so welcome, even necessary.
For my part, I apologised individually, but declined physical contact.
It may well
be that funerals as we know them will be suspended in favour of direct
cremation, say. That means that there would be no ceremony whatsoever (although
a memorial service could be organised for when things have calmed down).
At the moment, I am contacting families by phone and giving them the option of discussing the Order of Service in their home or by phone/Skype etc. Nobody has asked me to make the house call, but if I did, I would again decline physical contact with them, and would take precautions, such as not eating or drinking anything, and use plenty of hand wash.
At the time of writing, gatherings of more than 40 people are being discouraged. That may very well impact on weddings, vow renewals, namings and the like. The latter two could probably be postponed without too much trauma, as they usually entail much less planning than a wedding.
likely to be bigger and to have been planned from a year or so back. Deposits
will have been paid, at the very least, and cancellation penalties may exist in
the terms and conditions of some suppliers. Hopefully, such penalties will not
be invoked under the circumstances, and insurance cover may be in place anyway.
I think that the next two weeks will see the virus peak over here, and, hopefully, after that, normality will be restored, at least gradually. My advice to couples is not to panic and don’t cancel unless you are told to. You have more chance of being reimbursed if you respond to the government instructions, rather than assuming the worst and second-guessing. True, you want to give maximum notice to guests, but these are unique circumstances. It may be worthwhile getting in contact with them, though, to reassure them that they are not forgotten.
So “wait and
see” is my advice, frustrating as it may be, and hope and pray that the gods
will be with you.
At the very
least, you’ll probably have some stories to tell your grandchildren one day …!