Theres been an unusual request for the funeral of a famous singer: his family want those attending to wear bright colours in celebration of his life. Michael Rayner was the lead baritone in the DíOyly Carte Opera Company, which is most famous for performing the operas of Gilbert and Sullivan. Think of HMS Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance. The operas are joyful, life-affirming celebrations of music and laughter, and Michael Rayner was at the heart of them for many years.
He was full of life and laughter off the stage too, enjoying cooking and dinner parties with his many friends. He had four children with his wife Joy and lived to celebrate the birth of fifteen grandchildren. Thatís why his family want no black or grey clothing at his funeral. Instead, they hope to see people dressed in rich and vibrant red, yellow, orange and white.
Is it a good idea? Itís certainly not the tradition in British funerals, where the dark emotions of sadness and grief have traditionally been reflected in the dark clothing of the mourners. In the past people also thought that death wasnít the end of everything, merely the end of life on earth. Next came judgment by God and the afterlife. Itís a sobering thought that we meet the all-powerful creator of the universe when we die, so funerals have traditionally been serious occasions.
But more and more people believe that this life is all we get. Thatís why funerals are often used nowadays for celebrations of the life of the departed person. People listen to the favourite music of the departed, remember their hobbies and pastimes, eat their favourite food and drink their favourite drinks. The departed person will often have planned the funeral well in advance, deciding exactly where and how it will conducted. Nowadays people often prefer to make individual choices, not rely on tradition or religion for guidance.
You can do this using a funeral plan, because funeral plans arenít just a way of defeating the ever rising cost of funerals. Theyíre also a way of deciding how and where you want to be buried or cremated, and what memories you want to leave your loved ones. Itís about personal choice and preference, because consumers increasingly expect that they will be able to treat funerals as they treat other spending decisions in life. The funeral business is having to adapt to meet these expectations. The consumer is king and choice has to be the watchword of successful companies now and in the future.
The family of Michael Rayner are exercising their choice when they call for colourful clothes at his funeral. And this colourful farewell will, of course, be something that Michael Rayner discussed with them during his life. He planned his funeral as a celebration of his life and now his funeral plan is being put into effect. Preparing for the time when we pass away is also a good way of coming to terms with our mortality. When we have decided what we want and how we are going to pay for it, we no longer have to worry about the future. There will be no sudden burden on our families, no unexpected or excessive expense.
Instead, we can enjoy peace of mind and concentrate on appreciating everything that life has to offer. When the time comes, the funeral will happen just as we planned it, as colourful or as sombre as we prefer. Thatís the key: personal choice. Funeral plans offer us exactly that.