Afterthoughts

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Alternative Funerals

Would you want to have strippers at your funeral? In China, it’s not uncommon. It’s a way of getting more people to attend the event, because large crowds are seen as a mark of honour for the person who has died. Unthinkable here in the UK, or is it?

Our approach to planning a good send-off is changing. Perhaps not as much as it has changed in Puerto Rico, where corpses are still attending their own funerals. In 2016, a Puerto Rican family decided to pay their last respects to by propping up their dearly departed, cigarette in hand and with his eyes wide open.

Followers of Zoroastrianism have an equally squeamish practice of carrying their dead to the top of a hill, spraying them with bull’s urine, and waiting for the vultures to consume them. And in South Africa, one family decided to bury their much-loved father inside his beloved Mercedes with his hands on the wheel.

Those seem like extreme examples to us, but some of your own choices might be just as personalised. Many people today still want a traditional funeral (the service itself, that is), but more and more families are also finding ways to make the event a very memorable occasion. The truth is, everyone’s entitled to mark the occasion in their own way, either by making arrangements in advance or by agreement when a person has died.

MOTORBIKES AND SUPERCARS

Funeral directors report an increasing number of requests for personalised funerals. Many people want to express their individuality in the funeral procession itself, the content of the service or the music; some families want to go further – at a funeral for teenage brothers in Sheffield, more than 300 motorbikes and supercars led the cortege; at a natural burial, the family and friends decided that tranquility was the greatest mark of respect, and the whole event was carried out in silence.

Individuality is a key theme.

Funeral directors report far more requests for personalisation, turning funerals into a celebration of life as much as it is the commemoration of a death. Music is moving from hymns to pop music or live performances. And mourners may wear colourful clothes, as much as or instead of traditional black attire.

Perhaps the most important aspect of arranging a funeral is showing respect for the wishes of the person who has died. Unfortunately, many families don’t have these conversations soon enough – in fact, one report suggests that as little as one per cent of people knew the wishes of their loved ones. And of course, all of this comes at a price.

A standard funeral service averages out at around £5,000, and that’s before many of the personal touches are added. The more personalisation, the higher the cost. This is one of the reasons why so many families are considering end-of-life planning as part of their normal, everyday financial planning – securing the costs of the funeral director’s core services at today’s prices, now, so that more money is available later to pay for those more memorable aspects of the occasion.

Unusual practices from around the world may seem a strange way to start the conversation around death and dying. And we are only a few days on from Dying Matters’ week of ‘Dying to Be Heard’ activities – but we still believe it’s a conversation we should all be having. Think about your options, find out more about paying for your funeral.

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