2012-09-14

A Personal Death - Another funeral

Front of the order of service.
    With my grandmothers funeral only a few months after my grandfathers we simply stuck with the same funeral home.  It was familiar and convenient and everyone was happy enough with the job they did last time.  The last funeral was not perfect, but not that bad really and the staff were nice.

    This is my experience and opinions of my grandmothers funeral.  It was an 'interesting' event.


    We chose George Hartnett Funerals on Kelvin Grove Rd for my grandfathers funeral.  It was very convenient for my grandmother and I had recommended we go with an Invocare funeral home.  I have written extensively about InvoCare on this blog, and I have worked for/with them.  It is a decent company that is rarely terrible and rarely amazing.  InvoCare funeral homes are almost always "good enough" which is exactly what my grandfather would have wanted (and personally what I wanted).  Combined with the convenience this was a perfect funeral home for us.

    I noticed several mistakes by the funeral home at my grandfathers funeral.  They had not turned properly (were late to turn which caused confusion and then were sloppy), they did not instruct us properly (told us to wheel by the handles) and other little things.  Yet I was the only one to notice this, nobody else noticed.  Even when I pointed it out nobody really minded.  The mistakes were little, and they were trivial to us (myself included).  Overall the funeral was what we all wanted and everyone was happy.

    When my grandmother died there was little debate, we went with the same funeral home.  It was confinement, but better yet it was familiar.  We knew what it was like, how to get there and what to expect.  Familiarity is comforting, hence why tourism companies aim to be familiar around the world.  Disneyland and McDonalds are basically the same no matter where you are.  This is the same for the funeral industry, if anything it is more so.  A funeral is an emotional and unsettling time, a time when people feel uncomfortable and so familiarity can be a big help.

Simplicity hearse sitting in the car park.
A single cab ford hearse.
Click to enlarge.
    We arrived at the funeral place about 20 minutes before it was to start.  Being direct family we wanted to be there earlier than others.  I had a little look around the place, last time we had arrived in the front door and I had not seen the car park.  This time we parked in the car park and I got to see the back of the funeral place.  Here I found several White Lady Funerals cars with their company stickers quite prominent on the cars.  I also found a standard silver Simplicity hearse, all of which I took pictures of.  obviously this is one of the actual InvoCare locations, so they operate several companies (at least three) out of the one building.  Pure efficiency at work and a standard model of InvoCare which they also use in Sydney.

    However I found it very odd that all of this was visible from the car park.  Normally funeral homes try to hide their operations areas.  Things like where they park the hearses, where they bring the bodies in and out, often even employee parking are all to the side.  Out of sight of the mourners.  These areas might be easy to find, are not fenced off, but they are very rarely in the same place as where mourners park.  So it was strange, but interesting.  I noticed other people also looking at the hearses and funeral cars.  Yet they were keeping a distance, and nobody was taking photos.  Unlike me of course.

The coffin in place at the front.

    Upon entering the chapel I noticed the coffin was not in place, that it was nowhere to be seen.  The funeral staff were setting up, as though they were only just starting to get ready.  This was strange considering funeral companies usually set up 30 minutes before the funeral and this was at the funeral home.  It was not as though they had to drive somewhere, it was all in the one building.  About 10 minutes later I noticed that the coffin was brought in and placed at the front.  Not a big deal at all, but interesting to me.

Front of the card.
Click to enlarge.



    With my grandfathers funeral the funeral home had given out little silver cards.  On the front it had his photo and name.  On the back it had his date of birth, date of death and a short message.  Also at the bottom on the back it had the funeral home name and logo as the phone number.  An obvious piece of advertising on the funeral homes part.  But people liked it, at the time many people commented on how nice it was (which it was) and were happily taking them.  The card was actually a really good idea, a form of advertising for the funeral home and a nice memento for the mourners.

Back of the card handed out.
    I was not surprised and happy to see these at my grandmothers funeral.  Although this time we had issues with the photo, the company the funeral home used to print it were not good to work with.  I have worked in printing and they were borderline incompetent to the point where we gave up.  Disappointed with the photo in the end as it looked tacky and cheap.  But it was still nice to get the card.

    The order of service was done by my aunt again, and once more it was quite nice.  Well composed and nicely done.  Once agan the funeral home details were in the back of the book, which I like.  It is a nice way to remember which funeral home did the funeral and how to contact them if needed.  I really support his and think it should be in all order of service books.

    We all took our seats and the funeral started.  It was pretty much a standard funeral, nothing too special happened, nothing out of the ordinary.  Once the celebrant said their final words we all stood and it was time to turn the coffin.  Again the undertakers were late to turn.  They had not even made their way up the front, so we stood there awkwardly for a few moments.  My cousin (who was also a pallbearer  looked at me and I motioned to stay in place.  I knew the coffin still needed to be tuned which was not our job.  Then two of the pallbearers went up, my father and uncle, to turn the coffin.  This is when the hearse driver and conductor appeared (as they should have done a few minutes ago).  They approached the coffin, stopped, bowed, then tried to take their positions to turn.  But the two pallbearers were in the way.  It was a bit of a mess as the four of them tried to turn the coffin.  My father and uncle were going to turn the coffin anti-clockwise, the wrong way.  Which would have meant it was carried out head first (the wrong way) if the conductor did not stop them.

First inside page of the order of service.
    It was just sloppy, I was very unimpressed actually.  The pallbearers should have known better, we only did this a few months ago and the funeral staff were late to turn then to.  So they should have remembered to wait.  Also I had explained with both of them just a few days before that the coffin always turns clockwise and why.  To turn it anti-clockwise is such a big mistake.  I was also very unhappy with the funeral staff for being so late to turn, again.  They have done this twice in a row and were even latter this time.  Their lateness caused confusion, awkwardness and a messy turn.  It was just so sloppy and unprofessional on everyones part.

    There was no issue with the carrying out, this time they actually pushed.  With my grandfathers funeral they had not pushed the coffin and left it to me.  I explained this to them, how they should push and how they should hold the thumbscrew.  Which they thankfully remembered.  We loaded the coffin in the hearse and stood there a moment.  Next the conductor and celebrant lead the hearse out and it drove away into traffic.

Second inside page of the order of service.
    Then we went back inside for food.  The food was done by Celest Catering, the company InvoCare and other funeral companies primarily use around Australia.  Everyone uses this company as they are good value, relatively cheap and decent food.  Plus the staff are always nice.  I have never had or heard of a bad experience with Celest Catering.  They even put out different food, unlike other places.  Food like fruit, which is a lovely change of pace from standard part pies and sausage roles.

    Appart from the mess with turning the coffin I was relatively happy with this funeral.  Next time I would either insist they turn at the right time or simply use another company.  The sloppy turning both times is fairly bad and tarnishes my view of InvoCare.  To be sloppy and late to turn once is one thing, but to do it twice and essentially twice in a row is just not good enough.  I was also not too happy with this conductor, she was nice enough and good enough, but not as warm as other conductors I have interacted with.

    On my grandfathers funeral I noticed how out of place everyone was (including me).  I have been to plenty of funerals while working for a funeral home.  But after we loaded the coffin into the hearse I went to stand next to the hearse, with the other undertakers.  Realising my mistake, that I was a mourner, I then walked back.  However I had no idea where to stand, I just stood there for a moment thinking "well, where do I go?"  In the end I just stood back.  It really made me think about the roles we learn and play.  I might have been to plenty of funerals, but it was as an undertaker.  There is a clear difference between the undertaker role and the mourner role.  Something I had never realised before.  Now at my grandmothers funeral it was less obvious.  I knew where to stand, I had recently played the part of the mourner and remembered my place.

    I also noticed that everyone kind of stopped at the top of the steps at the door.  They did not really walk out of the chapel properly and just stood there.  This is something I have seen on plenty of funerals, and something that always bothers me.  It blocks people and it gets in the way.  Move forward and keep out of doorways!  At funerals where there are more experienced mourners (such as religious order funerals) this does not happen as much.  People do not play the part of the mourner often and thus do not know what to do.

    Would I use this funeral home again?  Probably not, not unless I had more of a run through before hand.  I do not expect much or have very high standards, but I also do expect better.  Would I use InvoCare again?  Yes, without doubt, InvoCare is a big company with many funeral homes under its belt.  Plus out of everywhere I have worked InvoCare does more for OH&S and employee well-fair than anyone else.

Back of the order of service.


Click to enlarge.

The coffin in place at the front.


Loading the coffin.

Securing the coffin.

Click to enlarge.
Conductor and celebrant getting into position to walk the hearse out.

Hearse driver getting in and starting up.


Signalling to make sure everyone is ready.

Walking the hearse out



Click to enlarge.
Conductor stopping traffic to let the hearse out.

My Grandfathers funeral:

Arranging the funeral - the experience of his death and sorting out the funeral.

The little details - I realised just how important little things like the order of service are.

The funeral - about the funeral itself, how it went and what I thought.


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2 comments:

  1. Truly sorry for your loss, it looked like a wonderful service.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous13/4/15 10:48

    I just used the services of an InvoCare facility in New Zealand and was very happy with their care and seeming sincerity in carrying out my brother's funeral. The only downside was the hard sell and add-ons such as the headstone when we were arranging the funeral and at a time when we were at our most vulnerable.My sister was prepared to say yes to everything and the funeral that we had planned to spend $10,000 on turned out to be $13,000 plus $2,000 for a headstone.

    ReplyDelete

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