I've often said that the nicest part of being a Funeral Director is the contact with people. Sometimes just having a chat, whatever the subject, is just what a client needs. It might be the case sometimes that within an hours visit, we'll talk ten minutes "business" and fifty minutes of whatever-it-may-be... weather, dogs, holidays, football, politics, gardens, food, technology, family connections, praising folk, bemoaning folk...
Whilst the conversations can be varied, so can the result of them: it's not uncommon for me to have a go at fixing a laptop, or a sky tv box, or be given a tour of a garden, or sampling a home-made cake!
Even though I'm there to offer my professional service, I find it's often the extra time and care taken which can make people most at ease.
A conversation that often comes up is along the lines of "I couldn't do your job" or "I don't know how you cope". My response is usually to point out that there are many many people with 'unenviable' jobs, and whilst yes, my job involves incredible hard work, long hours and often difficult situations, I think it gets balanced out with the pride and satisfaction of helping someone in their time of need.
Many of my clients have been surprised if I mention what I consider to be the hardest part of the job... meeting a family for the first time. When you're stood on a doorstep and knock on the door or ring the bell, you generally have no idea what you'll be faced with on the other side: one person alone or a house-full, free-flowing conversation or bottled-up emotions, sadness or laughter. What happens though, is that we soon find common-ground and we can build a relationship of trust and mutual respect.
I love Whitehaven and West Cumbria, I genuinely think that West Cumbrian folk are some of the friendliest around and it's often easy to find that we have something or someone in common. The meeting and contact with people is truly the nicest part of being a Funeral Director, and I feel incredibly proud and privileged to serve my home community this way.
When a calendar year comes to an end, I find it useful to look at the statistics for the funerals we have conducted, as they give an insight in to the changing attitudes surrounding funerals.
Something that has been a common theme over the years, and comes as no surprise, is the balance of cremations vs. burials - cremation has been increasing favoured year on year, and 2018 has seen the figure hit almost 80%, the highest we have known.
For the first time, I looked at the proportion of cremations where the ceremony was at the crematorium only and was quite surprised to see that the figure was in excess of two-thirds of all cremations. We have noted a growing preference towards crematorium-only services but didn't expect the figure to be as great.
A couple of other notable figures jump out from the analysis:
Although the figure of 2.76% of no-service funerals (Direct Cremations) is relatively small, it does in fact represent a notable increase on previous years as more people opt for simplicity through either personal choice or necessity.
The biggest change is the shift in the preference of who leads the service, with Independent Celebrants now the second largest group overall. Five years ago, Church of England represented 65% of our funerals with Celebrants at 12%, which shows a notable shift of preference in recent times. Meanwhile, the other groups have stayed roughly the same.
We often get asked a number of questions regarding the crematorium and its process, which of course, we're happy to answer. As these questions come up quite often, we thought we'd answer them all in this myth-busting post...
1. Does the coffin 'move off'?
No. It is a common perception that, at the end of a service, the coffin can be seen moving away by automation either horizontally or vertically. At both Distington and Carlisle at least, this does not happen - the coffin does not move anywhere while mourners are in the Chapel. It is only after everyone has departed that the coffin is moved from the catafalque.
2. Do you have to close the curtains at the end of the service?
No. There is no requirement for the curtains to close around the coffin at the end of the service, although this is still the preference of many. Alternatives include the curtains staying open, or the lights around the catafalque dimming.
3. Is the cremator behind the doors on the catafalque?
No. Behind the doors is simply a holding room. Once the congregation have departed the Chapel, the crematorium staff open the catafalque doors and move the coffin in to the holding room, where any floral tributes are removed before being displayed outside.
4. Are fittings removed from the coffin before cremation?
No. For the purpose of cremation, all coffin fittings are of a simple plastic construction, although they may appear to be solid metal. Bar any flowers or personal effects, the coffin is cremated as received.
5. Are coffins re-used?
No. As above, the coffin is cremated as received. The coffins used are normally constructed for the purpose of cremation. An exception may be when a 'coffin cover' is used, which is a wooden construction, designed to contain a cardboard coffin - the cardboard coffin is cremated and the cover is designed to be re-used.
6. Does more than one body get cremated at a time?
No. The cremator has capacity for only one coffin at a time and regulations are as such.
7. Is it really their ashes you receive?
Yes. Once the coffin is received into the crematory, it is labelled throughout the entire process. As only one coffin is cremated at a time, only one person's cremated remains are recovered after the cremation takes place. They are then labelled as they go through the final process, called cremulation, where the cremated remains are ground down to what we recognise as 'ashes'. The 'ashes' are then placed in to a labelled receptacle of choice.
8. Does there have to be a service?
No. There's no legal requirement to hold a funeral or committal service. Holding a cremation without a service, and often without anyone present, is known as a Direct Cremation.
9. Is there a time-limit to a service?
Yes, in theory. A standard time-slot at Distington Crematorium is 45 minutes, which is usually ample for the congregation to arrive, hold a service of up to 30 minutes and for the congregation to depart. It is possible, however, to book more than one time slot to enable an extended service or allow for the movement of a large congregation without impacting on any service beforehand or afterwards. Other crematoria may have different standard times.
10. Are flowers re-used?
No. All floral tributes at each funeral are unique to that funeral. They are displayed after the service, but it is then the preference of the funeral organiser what ultimately happens to them. Often, they are left at the crematorium where they remain on display for approximately one week before disposal. Family may opt to take the flowers, or often ask the Funeral Director to collect them to either use if the ashes are being buried or if the flowers are being donated elsewhere.
Do you think it is important to talk to family about funeral wishes?
We certainly think so. Many people want to talk to their family about their wishes, and many families want to approach their loved one to ask about theirs but it's a conversation that's so often put off.
Having a conversation - even only once - can help, as can writing things down, making a funeral plan or making a Will.
We're always glad to help in any way we can. Have a look at the 'Let's Talk' guide here http://eavesfunerals.co.uk/letstalk.pdf
and read about our Funeral Plans here https://www.yourfuneraldirectors.co.uk/…/1310_eaves_funeral…
The name Eaves has long been associated with ‘a dignified funeral’. Sadly, that is the very thing that Corporal Richard Eaves, grandfather of business co-founder Billy Eaves, was cruelly denied when he died on the battlefields of Ypres, Belgium, in 1917. Inscriptions on the Menin Gate memorial in Ypres and on the cenotaph in Richard’s home town of Lytham, Lancashire, are the only markers of Richard’s death - to date, his body has not been found.
Of greater significance, and valued greatly by the Eaves family, is the collection of beautiful silk postcards sent from the battlefield to his wife and two children back at home. Numbering more than fifty, they give a real and rare insight in to the thoughts of a World War one soldier.
Richard was brought up in Lytham and worked as a joiner. He met and married Kells-native Grace Blezard, who was in service in a Lytham hotel. They had two children; daughter Evelyn, and William - Billy’s father. Having served already with the Lytham Company of 2nd Volunteer Battalion East Lancs. Regiment, Richard enlisted on 5th September 1914 with 4th Battalion Territorial Force of Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, agreeing to serve a term of four years. On 11th April 1915 he was appointed Lance-Corporal, before being promoted to Corporal on 16th June that year.
Throughout his war service, he thoughtfully sent the postcards, often addressed individually to Grace (Kitty), Evelyn (Babs) and William (Sonny), always letting them know he was thinking of them, that he was well, that he hoped they were too, and that he hoped he would see them soon. Special cards arrived for Christmas, birthdays and Easter. His concern was always them. The only real mentions of the war were once mentioning that he hoped it would be over soon and another giving reference to soon being back in the trenches.
Two cards in particular stand out as being poignant, both dated 28th July 1917: one, saying “Dear Sonny, hope you like this card, it is just to let you see I don’t forget I remain your loving Dad”, the other says “My dear Wife, Just a line to let you know I am still in God’s safe keeping. Hope you are all well at home. Give my best love to all. I remain your loving husband, Dick xxxxxxxxxxxx”. These were the last cards… just three days later, on 31st July, the first day of the third battle of Ypres, Richard was posted as missing, presumed dead. He was 31 years old.
Grace returned to Whitehaven with her young children. She received a memorial plaque – a cast bronze medallion bearing his name, as did all next-of-kin of British and Empire service personnel who were killed as result of the war. It was only recently that Billy became aware of its existence.
Perhaps one day, Richard’s remains will be found and identified. Until then, his ultimate sacrifice will always be remembered. As we approach the annual time of remembrance, with the extra significance this year of the centenary of the armistice, we wish to publicly make our gratitude to Richard known – he and many, many others are true heroes. Time moves on and years pass, but through the sharing of these stories, the heroes live forever.
Lest we forget.