Saturday 14 April 2007


This week we said farewell to an old friend. She had suffered long and stoically and, following a lengthy illness, has gone to her maker. But to the last she did it with style and flair.

Our dear friend, her husband, is the richest man in the county with a reputation for being somewhat, now how can I put this delicately, parsimonious? So when he announced that he refused to pay the scandalous cost of transportation and was going to take his wife to the crematorium in the back of his estate car we were, as you can imagine, slightly alarmed.

My husband, a very conventional Roman Catholic, was aghast and tried to reason with him. It wasn’t fitting, she deserved to go with more dignity etc. etc. Our friend was unconcerned and, paying no heed to convention, stuck to his guns.

I told my husband that there was no need to worry and I was quite right. The service was dignified and simple, and our friend’s eulogy was both touching and insightful. It was obvious from what he said that he had devoted his life to his wife but now had been her time to go. It was very moving.

He later explained that he didn’t want her to take her last journey in the company of strangers. Having looked after her during the 25 years of illness this was to be his final goodbye. It had given him the opportunity to have one last talk to her. And that, I believe, was the real reason behind his eccentric decision. That and the money!

We don’t do things like other generations, never have done, never will. Rock on.

1 comment:

SurreySerf said...

As the husband in this case, but not by a long chalk the "richest man in the county", I thank you for your blog, R&C.

I would just add that there has never been any requirement that undertakers (nowadays "funeral directors") be used. In fact, there isn't even a requirement that there be a funeral.

In my view, it's much nicer to have a relative looking after all the details and much more personal. It isn't eccentic. I thought about the cremation and decided that all I needed was 1. to arrange for a cremation service 2. to buy a coffin 3. to transport my wife's body from the hospital to the crematorium on the day of the service and 4. to buy some flowers to put on the coffin which would then be in the room when the service took place.

I didn't see any need for funeral directors to do this.

My opinion of funeral directors mellowed quite a bit when I called on one firm to buy a coffin. Instead of being thrown out on my ear, they sat me down, gave me some coffee, showed me their coffin brochure, told me what forms I would need for the mortuary and the crematorium and gave me several useful pamphlets. When I collected the coffin a few days later, they again made sure I had all the necessary information and said "Ring us if you have any problems".

So it can be done. For me, it was the best way to say goodbye to my wife. The only thing I don't know is whether Old Grumpy is still aghast!

Anyone who may have to organise a funeral in the future and who thinks this might be a possibility can find help on the internet. Try - for instance.

Oh and R&C is right: it is cheaper! It cost me £1335.50 instead of the £2,173 that a friend paid for an almost identical service from funeral directors - and he was a friend of theirs!