• Patricia Bentley

Funerals that stand out

Whatever job we do, it isn't unusual to be asked about an occasion that stands out in our minds. There is a funeral that I will always remember even though it took place about fourteen years ago.

It was my third funeral. Still nervous, still hoping I wouldn't g

et it wrong. Actually that probably doesn't change. Saying goodbye to a loved family member isn't something anybody can be complacent about.

Anyway, Bill was 103, a very much loved man. I remember so much detail about him without even looking at my notes. He saved pen tops. Well, you never know when you will find a pen without a top. He was a very good artist. He was adored by his family, many of whom spoke at the funeral. At the family's request, we had a few moments when anybody was invited to pay tribute to him. A risky strategy. What if nobody came forward? I needn't have worried about that. There was no shortage of good things to hear.

At this crematorium, there are 3 choices available for the committal. Having the curtain closed around the catafalque, keeping the curtain open, or - unusual nowadays - lowering the coffin.

Bill's family knew exactly what they wanted. The coffin was to be lowered but at exactly a point in the music where there was a dramatic change, a crescendo. I don't know how many times I listened to that music. I contacted the crematorium to ask precisely how many seconds it takes for the coffin to go down. It's seventeen.

The buttons for the music, the curtain and the lowering are all on the lectern. Somehow, I got it exactly right, and as we left the crematorium, the funeral director in his dignified clothes gave me a very positive thumbs up before settling back into professional mode.

For myself, I was pleased that I had got it right but not nearly as pleased as I was for the family. All of their plans for an appropriate goodbye had come together. Exactly what a funeral celebrant hopes for.

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