Would you like to be buried with my people?

Categories: Opinion.

It sounds funny now, but it’s not so long ago that those rings on our fingers were inextricably linked to the tags on our toes. In years gone by our choice of life partner came with the added bonus of a family plot, and whether we liked it or not, we faced the prospect of spending all eternities with the in-laws.

Happily, the times they are a-changing and we now have a lot more options when it comes to both our weddings and our funerals. Weddings now come in all shapes and sizes for people of all beliefs, no beliefs, and everything in between – so it follows that funerals will naturally follow suit. Funerals are gradually moving beyond the realms of the traditional religious ceremony, as more and more individuals and families are choosing to personalise both the venue and the content of their funeral so that it represents more accurately who they are, and how they wish to be remembered.

The tradition of having a removal to the church and an overnight stay is becoming less and less popular with families opting to hold the wake in the home instead. This allows the family to be a lot more involved in the care of their deceased loved one, and gives them the time and space to say goodbye in their own home and in their own way. I have read many articles claiming that the tradition of the wake is dying out (pardon the pun), but in my experience I only see it gaining momentum.

In terms of the service itself, as a funeral planner and celebrant, I see that the current move away from the traditional religious funeral comes with a simultaneous move towards increasingly unique and tailored services. I have heard Elvis, Beyonce and Johnny Cash blasted, watched beautiful tributes from family and friends, seen personalised coffins adorned with football colours or children’s handprints, coffins carried on motorbikes, tractors and fire engines; the possibilities are endless (with a little planning!)

There is a growing interest in the Natural Death movement, with Ireland’s first Green Graveyard now in operation at Woodbrook Burial Ground on the Carlow/Wexford border. This offers a return to more traditional ways of burying and remembering loved ones, and facilitates a more natural return to nature; with beautiful surroundings, side-by-side plots, no standing headstones, with plain wood, willow or cardboard coffins used, no polished wood or metal coffin furniture. Wild flowers abound, and a native Irish tree is planted for every burial. Woodbrook is currently the only green graveyard in Ireland, with other sites currently being explored.

The trend towards cremation is also rising, with the rate of cremations currently at 10-12% nationally (in 2006 this figure was approximately 6%), and approximately 15% in the Dublin area. Crematorium bookings are allocated in 20 minute segments, and it is possible to book a double slot or the last slot if you would like some extra flexibility on time. If you are planning a non-traditional coffin, it is important to note that the Dublin crematoria do not currently accept cardboard coffins for cremation, although Northern Ireland and Cork do.

With the move away from church funerals comes an increase in choices of venue in which to hold the funeral or celebration of life. It may be held in the family home, the funeral home, a local community centre or school hall, a marquee, the crematorium, at the graveside or in any venue suited to holding a group of people for this purpose. A lot depends on logistics like accessibility and the turnaround time available, but with the advent of funeral planners and increasingly open-minded funeral directors, there is no limit to the scale or content of a funeral service.

It is important to communicate your wishes to your funeral planner as far as possible in advance, in order to ensure any logistical issues are identified and dealt with in plenty of time. There are many ways to skin a cat (so to speak!), so most issues can be ironed out with some planning and tweaking, but time is an important factor in having everything run smoothly. It is also important to have an advance meeting with your funeral celebrant to ensure that your beliefs and expectations are in line with theirs. Some celebrants have rules as to which readings/music can be included their ceremonies. This is particularly important if you are opting for a religious or a humanist celebrant, as some religious celebrants will not include secular music or readings, and humanist celebrants do not include spiritual music or readings. The increasing numbers of Interfaith and Civil Celebrants point to the growing demand for flexibility and inclusivity in services, and offer an alternative to those who do not fall within the realms of either religious or humanist beliefs. If you are unsure, just ask. Any celebrant worth their salt will be happy to discuss their approach with you, and help you decide whether they are the right celebrant for you at this time.

In summary, the options available for funeral services in Ireland are increasing all the time. No matter how unusual, whatever you have in mind for your funeral can surely be facilitated with a little planning and imagination! As with any important event, good communication is key, so it is vital that the professionals you choose to work with are in alignment with your vision, and that your family are aware of your wishes. It’s never too soon to discuss what you’d like for you funeral- so let your imagination run wild, and give ‘em something to remember!

Karen Dempsey is an Interfaith Funeral Celebrant, and a registered nurse and psychotherapist. She can be contacted through her website www.karendempsey.ie

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *