Wednesday 9 December 2020

It Tolls for Thee: book now published - but lots of information can be freely accessed here

A video introduction ( 2 minutes) to my new book, which  contains a lot of the practical material in Telling the Story With Love, but also tells my own story: how a close brush with my own death led to work conducting funerals, how the aftermath of death is dealt with in different cultures and countries,  some amazing stories from and about undertakers. The ultimate rock'n'roll funeral service. And more.

But most of all, this is a book about love.

Sunday 15 March 2020

Saying goodbye in difficult times

This is a work in progress, produced quickly and intended only to help you organise remembrance for your loved one in these increasingly desperate times. Or maybe you want to think about your own funeral, and how it should be conducted. It's occasionally clumsy and full of gaps which I would appreciate any help in filling. Use anything you find useful. Check the pages menu above - the 'News' page is updated frequently and so is 'Funeral Stories'.

As I write this, in March 2021, more than a year after I first posted on these pages, Scotland, the UK, the USA and Europe are all looking back at 12 months of Corona Virus infection and the consequent COVID-19 illness. And looking forward, some countries with more confidence and hope than others.

Pubs, caf├ęs, restaurants...they are all still subject to severe restriction. Supermarkets are no longer under siege as they were a year ago, vaccination, particularly in the UK, has brought real hope. Infection rates are still high, but falling. Treatment has improved and the death rate is lower. Mistakes have been learned from, though some are still being made. But we worry, all of us, and despair, some of us. We grieve. My daughter is working in a front-line COVID Intensive Care Unit. My wife,  two sons and two daughters in law are all in health care roles. Mask wearing has gone from a sign of paranoid daftness to legally-enforced universality. People we know have died.

We face, all of us, a major increase in the death of our loved ones, and continuing  restrictions on public funeral services of every kind.

(Here's an intensely moving video showing how one County Kerry community, early in the pandemic, paid tribute to one of its loved ones in the midst of the COVID-19 restrictions )

Ministers, priests and secular celebrants are still striving to cope. Some have been overwhelmed or unable to attend to the needs of the bereaved.  Funeral directors continue to face very difficult times and the demands on crematoria and cemeteries remain immense. 

Measures are in place to protect undertakers, family and health staff from infection.

In this environment, how do we say goodbye to those we love? 

(One important thing: if someone you love dies, can you access their 'digital life'? Do you have the passwords and log in details not just for social media, but bank accounts, business websites and everything else? Lots of useful info on this at the Digital Legacy Association site: )

Even as regulations are relaxed, we may need, as we have done for the past 12 months, to face the following

- A traditional public gathering for remembrance or celebration is now limited or simply impossible
- Viewing and dressing the body yourself is very difficult
- Disease control could mean the type of disposal and timing could be taken out of the family's hands
- No minister, priest or celebrant might be available in person to officiate
- Sheer numbers of the dead could mean delay
- How we grieve our departed loved ones will be be drastically affected
- The bereaved will in some instances have to organise their own services, celebrations and memorials
- Online streaming services such as Zoom, YouTube, Facebook Live and Periscope will be used far more frequently for memorial and mourning purposes. So will static webpages and social media generally.

Crematoria and funeral directors are able to offer 'remote funerals' where you simply stay at home and watch and listen on your phone or computer to a minister, priest or celebrant speaking to an almost empty room. Most crematoria are equipped with cameras and webcasting equipment. There is usually a charge for this service.

But demand on facilities and personnel could mean that such services become unavailable. Alternatives have to be explored.

For the last four years I have conducted  funeral services for folk in Shetland and Scotland. Most of these have been for folk who specifically asked that their memorial event should contain no religious element, but I have been more than willing to meet requests involving prayer, hymn singing and scriptural readings from the Christian and other traditions.

I thought it might be useful to freely supply online some of the material I've used, along with useful links. Preparation and planning ahead are essential. You do not provoke death by talking about it, and there is an urgent need to accept what is, after all inevitable for all of us. The conditions mean that for some, it will happen in the immediate future.

I will continue to update this site as when I can, but I will gladly add any links and information as they become available.

Please note: A good funeral director is your best friend and guide in the terrible business of dealing with death. We are fortunate in the Shetland Isles to have the excellent Goudies Ltd on call.

These 'Telling the Story with Love' pages are for folk who want to conduct services for their loved ones themselves. In loss we need to remember. We need to tell the story of our loved one's life. We need to bear witness. I hope that in some way, this may help you do that.

Navigate using the PAGES tabs at the top of the blog to the information you require. 

You can contact me by email here . If I can help, I will.

It Tolls for Thee: book now published - but lots of information can be freely accessed here

A video introduction ( 2 minutes) to my new book, which  contains a lot of the practical material in Telling the Story With Love, but also t...