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
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
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
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.