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Planning for the Personal Touch



Life was more like a journey on a train in the past: it ran on fixed tracks and arrived at predestined destinations. People did the same jobs as their parents and grandparents. Whole workplaces and factories went on holiday to the same places. There were mass fashions and television programmes that everyone watched and talked about.

That began to change in the 1960s. People wanted to “do their own thing” and feel more like individuals, less like members of an impersonal crowd. Today we take it for granted that we should be able to have control over our own lives and bodies. Personal choice is a very important thing, but people don’t just want to live as individuals: they want be buried as individuals too. Funeral services can be personalized, adapted and adjusted to suit the preferences of the deceased and to reflect their lives and interests.

And all this can be planned long in advance, so that the person whose funeral it will be has a chance to discuss all the arrangements both with their friends and relatives and with a funeral director and the priest or other celebrant they wish to conduct the service. That’s if they want a service – like everything else, the words spoke at a funeral can be changed exactly as the person planning the funeral wants. They might choose to have readings from a favourite book or poem. They might record something themself, saying farewell in a way that would have been impossible before modern technology.

And because it’s very easy to record your own music nowadays, some people will choose to say goodbye with a song, perhaps one specially composed for the occasion. The other option is to play music by a favourite band or solo artist. It might once have been thought inappropriate to play popular music in a church or funeral parlour, but attitudes have become more relaxed and people have many more options. From classical music to rock, from country to rap: if the music meant something to someone during their life, it’s something that should be heard when they reach the end of life and are buried or cremated.

Planning for a funeral doesn’t end with music, of course. And maybe it won’t start with music either. Some people may prefer the spoken word or concentrate on the visual aspects of the proceedings. Favourite colours and scents can be incorporated into a plan, and keen gardeners might want to supply the flowers for their funeral from their own garden or greenhouse. Hobbies and past-times are another obvious source of inspiration for a funeral. Many people are passionate about sport and will chose to be buried as they lived: surrounded by reminders of their favourite team. Fishermen might want a fishing theme and someone who enjoyed skydiving might choose to have their ashes scattered over an entire county rather than in the limited conventional way.

The possibilities are endless, because every life is different and funerals aren’t there simply to mark the end of life, but to celebrate what happened during that life and give those attending happy memories of what mattered to the deceased person.

National Federation of Funeral Directors