Austin's Blog

 

Let’s talk about the ‘D’ word

April 26th, 2017    Author:

Death and dying are not something most people naturally want to talk about. In fact, one research study found that people would rather discuss money or politics with family and friends. So it’s often not until a loved one dies that our thoughts turn to their wishes concerning their funeral.

Unfortunately, according to the study, only 30% of people had let someone know their funeral wishes. It also found that because of people’s reticence to talk about death, only 25% of respondents had asked a family member about their end of life wishes and just 7% had written down their wishes about the care they’d like if they were unable to make decisions.

With Dying Matters Week  taking place next month, it’s hoped that people will be encouraged to think about and discuss death and dying. During the week there will be nationwide events on this important subject, including coffee mornings, healing woodland walks, spiritual ceremonies, talks and film screenings.

It may be a good time to open up the conversation with loved ones and ask them questions such as how they would like to be looked after in later life, whether they’ve made a will and what kind of funeral they’d like. Perhaps they have a particular song they’d like or they have a favourite colour they’d like incorporated into the ceremony.

Talking about death doesn’t have to be morbid or depressing. Chatting about it is a great opportunity to think about what you’d like and to let friends and family know your wishes. When the time comes, it will help them to know that they are doing the right thing and that everything is as you wanted it.

* For help and support planning a funeral, please contact us on 01438 815555.

Harwood Park – an oasis of quiet contemplation

April 9th, 2017    Author:

Harwood Park – an oasis of quiet contemplation

 After a loved one has died, it can be comforting to return to their place of rest and spend some undisturbed time in quiet contemplation. At Harwood Park Crematorium and Memorial Gardens in Stevenage, we have 25 acres of grounds cocooned in open countryside that you are welcome to visit whenever you need to.

It’s a lovely place to enjoy the beauty of nature as you wander through Cherry Avenue, take in the majesty of Chestnut Avenue or breathe in the scent of flowers in our Rose and Trellis gardens. Our well-kept grounds also include Formal Memorial Gardens, a pond and children’s garden.

Many people come to Harwood Park regularly to lay fresh flowers or tend memorials that are dotted in special areas throughout the grounds. With a personal memorial garden, the ashes of your loved one can be scattered or buried within your chosen plot, accompanied by a feature tree, rose or shrub and an engraved memorial plaque. We have a choice of plots in different shapes, some of which are suitable for the ashes of up to four people – a lovely way to keep loved ones together.

Our memorials also include benches and seats, with an inscription dedicated to the person who has passed. Located by the pond and within our woodland areas, among other places, these make wonderful places to sit and quietly gather your thoughts.

You may wish to come to Harwood Park to visit what’s known as a ‘living memorial’ – a memorial tree planted in your loved one’s name. We have chestnut, birch and woodland trees, all planted as saplings so you can watch them grow and mature. There are memorial trees throughout our grounds and woodlands, all accompanied by a memorial tablet or plaque of your choice. Ashes can be scattered or buried by the tree.

All our memorials are available to you, whether or not the funeral was held at Harwood Park. We want our grounds to be somewhere you feel welcomed and comforted. A quiet, unhurried place you can return to time and again to reflect, remember and reminisce.

Tranquil setting of Harwood Park Crematorium

Tranquil setting of Harwood Park Crematorium

* If you would like help choosing a memorial for Harwood Park, please call us on 01438 815555.

Personalising a Funeral

April 9th, 2017    Author:

Over the years, funeral services have begun to change and personalisation has become increasingly popular. These days when you attend a funeral you may see a display of personal items or mementos that were connected to the deceased or perhaps a collage of photographs.

Many people choose to include personal touches like this in the funeral service to help celebrate their loved one’s life instead of focusing on mourning their passing. By reflecting the deceased’s personality, hobbies, interests or passions, it illustrates how unique and special that person was. And it offers a strong emotional connection for those who have come to pay their respects, helping them to remember the deceased as they say goodbye.

One wonderful example of personalisation was at the comedian Ronnie Corbett’s funeral when four candles were lit in homage to one of the Two Ronnie’s most famous sketches. In the sketch, Corbett played a hardware shopkeeper who misunderstands when a customer, played by Ronnie Barker, asks for ‘fork handles’. The comedian’s iconic glasses were also placed on the coffin.

If you’re planning a funeral and would like a personalised tribute think about how your loved one could be remembered. What was their passion or hobby? Did they have a special nickname, a favourite joke, a place they regularly visited? What did they do that made you laugh?

You might want to sit down with family members or friends to recall your fondest memories of the deceased and discuss how you can incorporate them into the funeral service. Joining together to reminisce can also be a useful way to begin the healing process.

* We are here to help with every aspect of funeral planning. Just call us on 01438 316623.

The fashion for Victorian mourning

February 14th, 2017    Author:

After her beloved Albert died in 1861, Queen Victoria dressed in black for the rest of her 40-year reign. It sparked a mourning fashion for women, many of whom would refer to journals or household manuals such as The Queen and Cassell’s for advice on what to wear.

The dress code was dictated by different mourning stages, which for a widow would last at least two years. In the first stage – full mourning – a widow would wear head-to-toe black, including a scratchy crape veil. Depending on the household income, her dress might be made of paramatta silk, cashmere or a cheaper fabric like bombazine.

After a year and one day, the widow moved into ‘second mourning’. At this stage – which lasted nine months – she could wear her veil lifted back over her head and also allow herself a little ornamentation, perhaps some fabric trim added to her dress or a piece of mourning jewellery.

The last stage was three to six months of ‘half mourning’ during which time widows could gradually move to a less sombre way of dressing. They could dispense with their black mourning dresses – known as ‘widow’s weeds’ – and wear their normal clothes, albeit in respectful colours such as grey, purple, violet and mauve. For this final mourning stage, the fashion became less formal and stiff, with the introduction of fabrics like velvet and silk along with lace, fringe and ribbons.

In the Victorian era, men didn’t apply such a strict fashion code. While a widower would mourn for two years, he’d simply wear his usual dark suit with black gloves, a cravat and hatband.

Wearing mourning clothes became less fashionable in the Edwardian era and its popularity dwindled further after the first and second wars. Today, many people reserve dressing in black just for the deceased’s funeral, though there’s no formal dress code for wearing black or a dark colour to a service. In fact, any colour goes so long as it’s in keeping with the wishes of the deceased or their family.

If you’re arranging a funeral, it’s useful to let attendees know any special clothes requirements. Your loved one might have talked about wanting their funeral to be a sea of bright colours or there may be a favourite colour the deceased always wore. They could perhaps have been known for their spotty scarves or mismatching socks, which you could ask people to wear at the service. These personal touches can help to reflect your loved one’s personality and strengthen people’s memories of them.

* If you need help planning a funeral, please call us on 01438 316623