Rev Juliet Stephenson, Director of the Good Funeral Company reflects on the impact of lockdown on taking funerals.
"Taking a graveside service, with closest family and friends as they gathered to say their last goodbyes, I was left with the innate sense of a job well done. It was like it used to be. In that open space, with the sun shining, the grave dug, simple flowers on the coffin, and some unaccompanied graveside songs….we had somehow captured the very essence of what a funeral is."
Nothing was diluted or made less of because we were few in number. Rather, what we had, what we were able to say and do, was somehow magnified into the most precious ritual. Gathering to give thanks. Reminiscing with love. Setting a soul free into the ‘other’. It was intimate. It was honest. It was beautiful.
And yet, this is not what we would ordinarily choose, it is what we have had imposed upon us. Restrictions, limitations and distancing. Whether 10 at a graveside, or in a Crematoria Chapel, it’s a very different scenario during this pandemic.
Not to meet a family beforehand, to look through photo albums, to ask questions about the past, drink tea, hear funny stories, look at medals, stroke pets, admire gardens, comment upon the sympathy cards….none of this is allowed.
We have to learn to communicate and grow close to the bereaved in other ways. The power of email, texts, zoom and telephone conversations has been amplified as we try hard to make the right connections to ensure the funeral ceremony is fitting and appropriate for a loved one.
We listen always, we help structure the ceremony, include music, poems, readings, tributes, eulogies and memories. We take the family through the emotions of the funeral, and at the end, we simply make sure that the blessing of a soul is done with dignity and respect, and given to God.
The Good Funeral Company Celebrants, are fortunate enough to always offer memorial services after a funeral. The promise of an opportunity for a future memorial gathering at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral has always provided a huge amount of comfort, and in these times of restrictions, never has this offer been so readily appreciated.
For families to know that in the future they can come together into a beautiful building, where they will light candles, hang stars on a twinkling prayer tree and hear the name of that special someone read aloud in a sacred space, this will be such a precious and honouring thing to do.
I feel privileged on behalf of The Good Funeral Company to be able to offer the gift of our Cathedral space as we continue to help those we have supported through these difficult times.