My grandfather died last week, not to anyones surprise and in some ways actually welcomed. The whole process of his death and organising the funeral was interesting and very relevant to this blog. Hopefully by examining this from a personal perspective I can get and share a deeper understanding of how funerals are done. But from the perspective of a family mourner rather than an undertaker.
My grandfathers health had been deteriorating over the last couple of years so everyone saw it coming, even him. He had gone into hospital a few weeks before his death to treat his sore foot. During the exames they found a serious cancer and admitted him where his health worsened rapidly. His last few weeks were spent bed ridden, unable to eat or speak. So his death was not as unpleasant as it could have been.
When the doctors informed us he had a week or less to live a few of the family came to me about funeral information. After all, I do have some experience in the industry, however I reminded them that I only had one years experience and was just a 'pleb' amongst many. Even so I was able to help and suggest some things. Because my grandfathers' brother is in England and quite old himself he would be unable to attend the funeral. So I said we should make sure to send him an order of service or anything else like that.
Things were left here and no more plans for his funeral were organised. Many of his family (such as myself) live in Sydney which makes it difficult to organise things all the way up in Brisbane. The family in Brisbane have been very busy with things I can't go into. So they were unable to make anymore arrangements.
However I think there was another more important reason for delaying plans for his funeral. It was as though not planning his funeral while he was still alive was delaying or denying his death. In reality everyone (including him) knew his death was coming, yet nobody was pushing toward organising his funeral. this delay came from emotion rather than reason. Quite understandable really as death and loved ones are more emotional than reasonable things for us. So the delay in organising his funeral until after his death was predictable and understandable. Perhaps this is why most people do not organise funerals until after the person is dead, even when they see it coming.
After his death there was movement within the family. People had to be called and the news passed around. There was a lot of talk about the funeral, what should be done and when it could be held. ANZAC Day was around the corner (and still is as I write this) which limited the possible days. There was an interesting and strange sense of urgency here. Once he was dead that the funeral should be held sooner than later. While there was not 'rush' there was most certainly a 'hurry' to get it sorted. I found this interesting, how the funeral arrangements had been delayed (actively on some levels) while he was still alive, even though everyone knew how long was left, yet now after his death were urgent. It was almost as thought there was an unspoken and uncertain time limit. From working in the industry I know how a funeral could be delayed as long as desired. Refrigeration (which is standard) can preserve a body for a week or more and embalming can preserve a body forever if done right. So it was not as thought he would 'go bad' or something while the funeral was arranged. On some level I think everyone knew this, but it was not the reason for the urgency. The urgency came from a desire to 'finish the business' so to speak, closure in other words. He was now dead for sure and people wanted to deal with it through putting him to rest.
In Brisbane they approached a couple of funeral homes before settling with an InvoCare owned one. We planed a small service within the funeral home chapel, after which his coffin will be carried out and taken to the crematorium for a No Service No Attendance (NSNA). The reception or wake will be held in the same chapel after he is driven away. To be honest I was a little disappointed because driving in cortege is the best part of the funeral to me. It would have been good to experience this from a mourners perspective. But this way was considerably cheaper, simpler and easier for my grandmother, all of which I think he would have preferred.
All in all the funeral is costing about $8,000, not too high a price considering. But I worked at one of the most expensive funeral homes in Sydney and had little to do with prices or costs. So while I thought $8,000 was a little high for such a simple service the price is understandable and reasonable. My grandmother did not see it this way, she thought the price was well and truly too high and was quite unhappy about it. But that is just her way and she appears to have accepted it. Again, it's interesting from a mourners perspective to be talking about 'costs' and 'prices' in relation to a dead loved one. It is not putting a value on their life (or death in this case) but it is still strange. And I'm not sure why it's strange, it just is. It's also surprising that my initial reaction at hearing the price was to think of it as high without thinking Once I heard a breakdown of the costings and thought about it I realised how it was, or is, a decent price for what we get.
Anyway, there it stands, I'll fly up to Brisbane with some family tomorrow morning (ANZAC Day), a day before the funeral so we can spend time with the family. The funeral will be held the next day (Thursday)
On a side note one thing that also interests me is how the funeral is with InvoCare (Metropolitan to be exact) and my attitudes considering I know how they operate. They are a good and bad company when handeling the dead. Everything is quite respectful and decent. Yet it is a modern process, much like McDonalds. I'll go into detail about this in another post, but for now I will say that while the staff and this system try to be personal and caring they do not always succeed. The system becomes cold to remain efficient. Yet knowing this I have no issue with my grandfather going through the InvoCare system. They may be cold, efficient and profit driven but what big company isn't? At least they genuinely try to do right by the mourners and deceased.