Preparation & Planning.
The webpages of The Natural Death Centre are rich in resources and full of encouragement with no right or wrong answers with regards to funerals. It is immensely empowering. They have a list of coffin suppliers who will deal with the public directly and plenty of encouragement for families who want to have more input into their loved ones funeral. I read a snippet of an account by Wendy Miller, who placed her mum in a camper van and drove her round to say “goodbye” to her friends. Her video, A Very Natural Burial can be viewed on You Tube. I didn’t need to watch the video – the snippet was enough; we have a Jaguar estate car and I was going to collect my dad myself, bring him home for the night and take him, lovingly & personally to the crematorium the next morning. Thank you Wendy.
Arranging a funeral is relatively straightforward. There’s paperwork involved and crematoriums/cemeteries enjoy dealing with funeral directors because it means that they are not dealing with lots of different individuals. Therefore, clear communication is vital and I started my conversations by reassuring the Registrar / Funeral Director / Crematorium that I understood the importance of the correct paperwork etc and that I’d endeavour to communicate well.
First of all, I needed a coffin. Feet First Coffins were superb from the outset and Paul Barnett was instrumental in dispelling the myth that funerals needed to be Funeral Director led, simply with his “been there, seen it all” attitude, his injection of gentle humour in just the right places and his reassurance that my plans were not ridiculous – far from it. It transpires that he makes rather excellent coffins as well – More on that in another article.
With a natural / expected death, the Medical Certificate is issued as a matter of course. The death then has to be registered and the Death Certificate is issued. In today’s COVID times, getting the Death Certificate was quite easy, as Registrars are currently phoning the deceased relatives and everything is done by phone. Once the Registrar has completed their paperwork – they e-mail a form to the Crematorium, Cemetery, Burial Ground or wherever the actual “disposal” is taking place. It’s good to have this finalised before speaking to the Registrar, as they can’t sign off on it until they know where to send the Registrar’s Form.
When it comes to the funeral, the only legal requirement in the UK is that the death must be certified and registered, and the body must be disposed of. We chose Lincoln Crematorium for the disposal. There were 2 more forms to fill in, a Form H – Instructions for Cremation and Cremation Form 1 – The Application Form. If you can find a Cremation / Cemetery who are on board with your plans, it’s so much easier. “Nil Points” to South Lincolnshire Crematorium, who haughtily advised me that they “don’t deal with members of the public” – Funny that – I thought that members of the public WERE your customers!
It really does help to have your plans for the Service / Celebration of Life / Remembrance Day sorted before you approach crematoriums etc, because they need to deal with actual dates, times, measurements and schedules etc. Indeed the Form H and Form 1 ask for the type of service being held, (if any) coffin dimensions and your wishes with regards to ashes and leftover flowers etc.
I realise now that I have approached my article writing in a topsy turvey way and it would have been better to outline our Celebration of Life plans first. However, I got so much value out of arranging the funeral myself, it was overall a positive experience, that I wanted to get the officialdom out of the way first, so I can concentrate on writing about the plans and how they unfolded – I can focus on the experience of actually being involved in Dad’s funeral.