Most funeral services take place at a crematorium, where time is restricted. The amount of time allocated for a service varies from place to place, but in this region it tends to be mostly 30 or 40 minutes. However, a lot of precious things can be done and said in that amount of time. It is my task to assist you in planning the service to make the very best of the time available. Funeral Service books are available which contain traditional services to suit all aspects of the Christian church, and these can be used if that is your wish. On the other hand, most families prefer something more personalised as befits their loved one and it is my pleasure to assist in that process. There are many aspects that can be considered, including:
Entrance and exit music
Entrance and exit music is customary, but if you wish to enter and leave the service in silence you are welcome to do so.. However, some music which reminds you of your loved one: a favourite singer, musician, composer, theme, or a Christian belief that was important or helps to set you more at ease can be very helpful indeed. The music can be live, played by a professional organist, or CDs can be used if you prefer; these can be provided by you or sometimes by your funeral director, or I may be able to supply what you need from my own collection. If it helps I am happy to contact my local record shop which is very efficient, helpful and prompt in the acquisition of the required CDs and I make no extra charge for offering this help. Sometimes a crematorium will have a system to supply exactly the music required without the need for CDs.
Sharing treasured memories: it's the time to cherish the life of your loved one. You may like to provide me with key facts and stories to share, or write something for me to read out on your behalf. Alternatively you may wish family or friends to speak in honour of your loved one. If family members do feel able to participate in the service it invariably makes it more personal and special, but this suggestion may not suit every family. For more on this, see Sharing treasured memories.
Poems and readings
Poems and readings: there are very many helpful verses which can be read from the Bible, in modern or traditional language. Poems can also be read. These often fall into two broad categories: firstly poems which help us to cherish our loved one and secondly poems which help us move gently towards our farewells to our loved one. Click on Songs, hymns, prayers, poems for some suggestions of both spiritual and non-spiritual resources. The Internet has a huge variety of poems to explore if you wish to.
Farewell: for most of us this can be the hardest part of the service. At a cremation the question arises whether to request that the curtain be closed or left open and the coffin remain in place until the congregation has left the chapel. By tradition, the curtains close at a cremation, as the words of committal are spoken and families who choose this option usually find that the drawing of the curtains helps to bring a more definitive closure to the service. Some families, however, prefer not to close curtains on their loved one, leaving the possibility for family and friends to come up to the coffin and pay their last respects in the way they find most helpful at the close of the service. In any event, the coffin will remain in place until everyone has left the chapel and the funeral directors have been able to remove the flowers and any other items, such as a photograph, which may have been placed on the coffin during the service. At a burial, it may be difficult for some when the coffin is lowered into the grave, but equally it can bring a sense of completion and peace to the service. We can discuss how you wish this to be done.
It is important to help people to be at ease as much as is possible under the circumstances; you may like me to welcome by name key family and friends who will be there.
Song and hymns
Songs and hymns: for some, singing at a funeral is the last thing they feel ready for, but others often find it very uplifting and honouring, both to the memory of a loved one and, if it fits with their beliefs, to God. Perhaps you might want to choose a song that meant a lot to your loved one or to members of the family. Some families choose traditional hymns; others choose songs memorable from School assemblies. If you'd like to hear a Christian song at the service, but don't feel up to singing, it may well be possible to arrange for good singers and musicians to sing and play to you, such as a soloist, or a duo, perhaps accompanied on gentle acoustic guitar. I have quite often played acoustic guitar and sung myself, sometimes with one or more ladies harmonising alongside me. If you wish, a 'taster' of these options could be given in your home in order to help you to decide what is best. For example, one of the ladies who is quite often free to help me is Julie Jones. There is more about Julie at her website: www.joolzmusic.com. Click on Songs, hymns, prayers, poems for more suggestions.
Reflection and prayer
Reflection and prayer: you may wish to have a brief time of silence in which those present can recall their own cherished memories of your loved one; on the other hand, silence may be difficult for you and best left for another time. People attending a funeral often find themselves with a sense of "unfinished business": things they wished they had had the opportunity to say to their loved one, but for some reason didn't, perhaps, for example, because their loved one passed away so unexpectedly. This quiet space for thought, reflection and prayer can be a real help to take a small step towards coming to terms with what has happened. Non-religious families often ask for the word "prayers" to be included when introducing this quiet space in the service, so that others attending who may have a religious perspective, can use that time for private prayer. Such a quiet opportunity for reflection normally lasts for about one minute and is usually accompanied by quiet music, either from the organist or from a CD.
Gifts in honour of your loved one: you may wish to invite family and friends to make gifts to a charity in honour of your loved one. Your funeral director can arrange for a suitable receptacle to be placed by the door as the congregation leave, and this opportunity can be mentioned at the beginning of the service so that people can be prepared for it.