Births, deaths and marriages

Funerals are preferable. Less planning involved. Less scope to get messed about. That tends to happen a lot with weddings you know. Dates change. Or venue is moved. They’re unpredictable. Funerals are more fulfilling in many ways. There’s a short lead-in; the phone-call comes, you’re relied on heavily to navigate folk through a difficult time. The enormity of the occasion, and all that. The event consistent with what the deceased would’ve wanted. In retrospect, usually. Not for the deceased, of course, but for those remaining charged with honouring the wishes of their dead. Often they’re unsure what these wishes actually mean in practice. They’ll often come up afterwards and say “that’s just what so-and-so would’ve wanted”. They couldn’t imagine what all this was about beforehand. But they’re relieved by the time it’s over. It’s enormously fulfilling. Helping to give them peace of mind. A moment that makes it all worth it.

He interrupts himself to offer me a cup of tea before asking me where he left off. I forget because I’m impressed by his resistance to the urge to overturn my automatic decline of the offer. My first answer is accepted. I must remember to remember that as a useful indicator in determining how straight a talker a person is.

Where was he again?

Weddings. Now, the training is completely different to funerals. Different skills required, as you can imagine. There’s less confusion about what it’s all about as the couple is involved in the planning and the length of advance preparation so no-one turns up surprised. The fee is higher but usually capped in and around say £300 to £400. Funeral fees would be much less expensive. No more than £150. Free if the deceased is a member. Now the couple will likely have a preference, too. It gets a bit more personal with weddings. With funerals, the funeral director has a list and will call whichever one is nearest or available. With weddings, it’s all about preference. But it’s never a personal thing. You might remind him of his previous mother-in-law or something. Not saying you will, just that it can come down to something as arbitrary as that. You’ll never know about it. They’ll have preferences for age, gender, too. It’s just chemistry sometimes. But nothing to be offended by.

He hears his wife coming through the front door. Nice to meet you. Nice to meet you, too. Another offer of a drink. Coffee this time. I’m fine, thanks. I’m sure.

Where was he again?

Fees. A modest living can be made, but only if you live quite frugally, mind. Money can’t be the motivator. Unfortunately corruption has crept in with some benefitting from the training then going off and operating independently, charging fees that aren’t ethical. That’s really why there’s a cap on fees, to avoid this sort of thing. Travel costs can be added on top. But of course it’s impossible to legislate against it, and there’s no knowing for certain that it won’t happen. In addition to the training there is a more extensive interview that helps us make a character judgement. Insofar as that’s possible obviously. The course fees? In around two thousand per course. That includes five days residential and all associated costs.

He was going to say something else before I asked him that question. Details of the courses are available on the website. The training coordinator will do a brief interview based on information included on the application form, and if successful, you’ll be directed back here.

Ah he remembers what he was going to say.

Naming ceremonies. These can only be done if training in weddings or funerals has been successfully completed. And just on the subject of fees. You’re obliged to declare your income on a quarterly basis with ten per cent going back to the Association.

That seems reasonable. Yes, it is entirely reasonable.

This is all so reasonable, I’m two inane smiles away from breaking out into inappropriate laughter.

Humour? Why, yes, you’re entirely right. There is room for that also. There has to be. So any further questions?

Good question! Some people do drop out of the training, though more often they defer it due to personal circumstances, and that can be accommodated depending on their situation. Not everyone passes the training. With funerals, there is an opportunity to conduct a demo in an actual crematorium. People can pass the training but fail on the assessment. Communication skills and personality are vital factors, too. But often, people might start off lacking a degree of confidence but it grows with the training, and it’s lovely to see them blossom.

What was that I asked earlier?

Borders. Well, there’s only three crematoriums on the island. Travelling in either jurisdiction is perfectly acceptable. Weddings, also. There’s no point in someone travelling up from Cork to Monaghan if I can get there sooner. But with the legislation having passed there in 2013, most people will prefer just the one wedding ceremony so we don’t get asked as much.

What was I going to ask again?

Inclusion of prayers. Hmm. Well, that’s an interesting one. And one that is debated at length during the training. The common option is to allow some time for silent prayer. Others won’t allow any reference to a supernatural entity whatsoever. Some, like that one you mentioned, will allow a short prayer but this will only be allowed to be spoken by a family member or guest. I would say that there are times when you’ll have to make a judgement on whether this is for the couple or family or whoever. It might be that what they’re really seeking is a spiritual ceremony after all. And you’ll just have to be upfront about it. But yes, it’s a period of transition for many. As I say, there’s a healthy wave of secularism beginning to wash over the country but we’ve a long way to go. It’s the critical mass we’re looking for. A time when a funeral director can ring up and we won’t ever have to say there is no-one available to do it. Unfortunately, as a consequence of too few of us, there are many who are just not having their wishes honoured.

A big firm handshake at the door. I try my best to see it and raise it. Let that be an indicator to him.

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6 thoughts on “Births, deaths and marriages

  1. Well said. Rituals are such a big part of all religions, that clearly humans need these as comfort and doing what is seen to be proper. You would think that with all these fundamental similarities there would be less antagonism between different religions

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