Austin's Blog

 

Attending a Winter Funeral

November 13th, 2019    Author:

The clocks have gone back, Halloween is over for another year and Christmas is just a few short weeks away. Yes, winter is here!

A few months ago, back during that wonderful heat wave, we blogged about attending funerals in the height of summer. Now, we thought it would be helpful to write a few tips on winter funerals and some of the things you might want to think about; whether it’s a funeral you’re planning for a loved one, or attending to pay your respects.

Your outfit

Unfortunately, winter always sees a spike in deaths – and funerals don’t often come with much advance notice. It’s a good idea to keep a few items of more formal winter wear in your wardrobe, which may come in handy during the colder months.

A smart, dark-coloured winter coat will keep you warm and go over any outfit you decide to wear. Wool coats are very smart, although not the best in wet weather, so make sure you always have an umbrella handy.

Keeping warm will be a key factor in your choice of outfit for a funeral, as you will probably spend a fair bit of time outside viewing the flowers and talking to people after the service. Layers are really important as you will be moving from inside for the service (which might not be a particularly warm church), to the outside and then back inside for the wake.

Accessories, such as jewellery, which would normally add a little colour to your outfit, don’t really get seen when you’re wearing a coat, but your winter accessories – hats, scarves, and gloves, can still bring the colour if that’s what you want.

Make sure you have smart dress shoes that will stand up to walking across wet or frozen grass. If it’s really cold, the little reusable hand warmers, which you can buy online or from many shops, are a great idea to slip inside your gloves.

The flowers

While you may think there is not as big a choice of flowers available in the winter months, as opposed to summer, winter flowers can bring all sorts of colour and texture to help your arrangements reflect the personality of your loved one.

Evergreens are your typical winter flowers. These are plants that have leaves throughout the year – and you can do so much with them. Branches and twigs can add texture, while bright red berries add a splash of uplifting colour. Leaves add both texture and colour and some types, such as pine, also give a lovely scent to an arrangement.

Carnations, roses and tulips are in season throughout the winter, so you’ll have no trouble getting hold of these. And, of course, they come in a variety of colours to suit your arrangements. Lilies also bloom throughout winter and are the most iconic funeral flower. They’re stunning to look at.

If you’re working with a florist, they will also be able to source some more exotic blooms for you to bring in even more colour, should you wish to.

The wake

No one expects to be fed a whole meal after the funeral. A wake is a time to catch up with friends or family, have a drink and perhaps a small bite to eat, and share memories of the deceased.

It can be tricky to know what to serve at a wake, but in cold weather, soup and a roll is likely to be more appreciated than the traditional cold buffet – or even just a hot option such as warmed sausage rolls.

You could even add a personal touch if your loved one had their own recipe that you can easily recreate. Make sure there are plenty of hot drinks available too.

It’s a well known fact that food can comfort us in times of need; it’s often something people naturally bring to the home of a family when someone passes away. The practice of feasting after a funeral dates back to Egyptian times and the Jewish custom of Seudat Havra’ah actually translates to ‘meal of consolation’, a meal that is prepared for the mourners by their community.

Winter memorials

Winter weather often makes things more challenging. After the funeral or memorial service is over, it might be too cold or wet to spend time at your loved one’s grave or memorial having a ‘chat’ with them or just sitting quietly.

The weather can also make it trickier to visit their grave as regularly, but there are plants and flowers that will be hardier in harsher weather, and can be left for longer. Your local garden centre will have plenty of options that will keep the grave looking vibrant no matter how bad the weather gets.

As well as its challenges, winter also brings lots of opportunities for memorial ideas. You could:

  • Have a special bauble made to go on your Christmas tree in memory of your loved one.
  • Plant a memorial rose – winter is the best time to do it.
  • Spend the long winter nights sorting photos and putting together a memory box for yourself or for members of your family to remember your loved one.

Dealing with Death in a Digital Age

October 28th, 2019    Author:

The way we deal with death in 2019 is very different from even just a decade ago. Today, our physical lives run parallel with our online presence and, for many of us, everything is documented online from our baby’s 12 week scan to our death.

While we’re creating these digital footprints, we’re also faced daily with other people’s milestones, their news, as well as charity campaigns and awareness events – such as Baby Loss Awareness Week last week – which keep all of life’s hurdles at the forefront of our minds, now more than ever.

This will no doubt help to lessen the taboo around talking about death – many terminally ill people now choose to keep blogs, which are widely read. But our digital lives also bring challenges when we lose a loved one. How do we communicate online about a death? What is expected of us? Is it ok for online messages to replace more traditional forms of communication?

 

The research

The Coop conducted some interesting research into social etiquette in the event of a death. They found that:

  • 1 in 8 adults have posted online to notify others about the death of a loved one
  • 1 in 5 adults want loved ones to post online to notify others about their own death
  • 1 in 3 agree that with the rise of social media less people send sympathy cards

So in a world of social media, how do we cope with a death and what positives can we draw from it?

 

Reacting to a death on social media

If you find out that someone has passed away via social media, it can be difficult to know what to say. Messages and emails are increasingly replacing traditional cards, but of course, there is this sense of immediacy to everything online.

It’s important not to bombard the family of the deceased with messages and, if you do post something publicly, then be very mindful of what you’re posting. Think about how your words will affect others at such an emotional time. While expressing your emotions is a healthy part of grief, always remember that your posts will potentially be seen by a very wide audience and some conversations are better had offline.

It’s said that 50% of Generation Z (those born between 1997 and 2010) spend 10 hours a day connected online, however, when it comes to death, even those who have grown up in a digital world find grieving in the internet age a bit strange. Some worry that they will look like they are attention seeking if they post about a friend or loved one’s death. For a generation who post almost everything online, surely not ‘talking’ about it would be odd, but yet these questions still arise for many of us when anniversaries and birthdays come around every year.

 

Sharing the news of the death of a loved one online

If you have lost someone, you may wish to put a notice online to let your wider circle of connections aware of the death, once you have spoken to close friends and family. You may also wish to post details of the funeral, which can be shared to anyone who may like to attend.

If you’re unsure what to do with their social media and online accounts, check that they didn’t leave any wishes or instructions. You can:

  • Memorialise their accounts (only some platforms will allow you to do this). This will enable you to still visit their profiles and see photos etc. but will stop birthday notifications or similar being sent, which can be very distressing for everyone involved
  • Delete their accounts (you will have to contact the individual platforms and will generally need a copy of the death certificate)
  • Leave their accounts open

 

A modern day memory book

Thanks to our online presence, those who have passed away are no longer hidden away in dusty photo albums, they are carried around with us, as the background photo on our phone, or in our profile pictures. Some of us also upload old family photos to our social accounts to share with friends, creating a digital legacy.

This can help with the grieving process; scrolling through photos and memories as you would have done a photo album, but with the deceased’s own words and emotions to accompany them.

People are also starting to request digital memorials when they die; a virtual space online for remembrance, as opposed to the traditional headstone or plaque.

 

Appointing a ‘digital heir’

Not many people have heard of the ‘legacy contact’ on Facebook. It’s someone who you appoint to look after your Facebook account after you die. That person cannot read the deceased person’s messages, but can change their profile photo and archive posts and photos. Other platforms have various methods to close or memorialise accounts, but planning ahead where you can and choosing a ‘digital heir’ will make things easier for those left behind.

Attending a funeral in the summer 

July 31st, 2019    Author:

Attending a funeral in the summer 

Well, what a summer we’re having so far! As we write, we’re in the middle of the end-of-term heatwave and trying to stay cool in the offices here at Austin’s!

We Brits aren’t too accustomed to such hot weather and, when it comes to summer funerals, we can become a bit unsure about traditional customs. So we thought it would be a good idea to put together some thoughts on attending funerals during the balmier months, with some seasonal tips and plenty which are relevant all year round, too.

 

What to wear to a summer funeral

 One of the most common questions people ask is, what should I wear to a summer funeral?

If the weather is anywhere near as hot as it has been recently, then you need to put some planning into your outfit. If you’re in the right clothes on the day, you’ll be able to focus on what matters and the reasons you’re there, rather than worrying about what you’re wearing.

Stay cool: Choose something light, respectful and modest, so make sure shoulders and knees are covered. For men, a smart, short-sleeved shirt is fine and for ladies, skirts and dresses should be at least knee length. There is no need for a full suit in hot weather, but make sure you don’t go too far the other way and appear too casual; avoid flip flops and shorts.

Colour and print: Summer funerals can be tricky because most of our summer clothes tend to be colourful or feature large, summery prints. It may be that the family would like people to wear colour; this is something that is becoming more and more common, [see blog on personalisation] in which case just avoid anything with graphics or slogans, or that is too ‘beachwear’. You don’t want to detract from the focus of the occasion.

If colour has not been specified by the family, it’s not generally expected to wear full black anymore. Go for neutrals that suit lighter materials, such as grey or beige, or possibly white.

Style: Funerals are very personal affairs, so try not to come across in full business attire. Similarly, you don’t want to look like you’re going to a cocktail party, so no off-the-shoulder or body con dresses. Remember, family and close friends can be sensitive on the day, so dress conservatively.  (blog on funeral stress]

 Footwear: There is generally a lot of walking at a funeral. You may need to park a way away from the service, then there may be a walk to the burial or cremation, and to a wake afterwards. Churchyards can have uneven terrain and there will be a lot of standing and talking to people, so choose wisely!

Check the weather forecast a few days in advance and decide on your outfit. Then check for any stains, marks, loose buttons etc, that need attention. And don’t forget your shoes; do they need a clean?

 

What to take to a summer funeral

Once your outfit is sorted, it’s time to make sure you have everything you need with you.

While there are a few things to remember, try not to take a really big bag as it will just get in the way.

You may need:

Tissues – for you and others that you can offer around.

Sunglasses – essential in this weather!

Water – the hot weather can play havoc with tickly coughs, so it’s helpful to have some water at hand, especially during the service.

Cereal bar – funerals can be stressful and emotionally draining that we can forget to eat. Having a small snack in your bag is a good idea in case someone is in need.

Painkillers – we all know a good cry can bring on a headache, but with the hot weather as well, make sure you have something to keep it at bay.

Make-up wipe – Again, tears can play havoc with eye make-up. You or someone near you might be very grateful for a quick wipe!

Money – It’s a good idea to carry some cash in case there is a donation box or collection.

 

What to do on the day of a funeral

Arrive in good time. There is nothing more stressful than being late. You need to factor in finding somewhere to park and traffic depending on the time of day.

Know where to sit. As a general rule, the first few rows are reserved for family and close friends.

Put your phone on silent. Obvious, we know, but so easily forgotten.

Go and see the family. There is usually a lot going on before the funeral starts, but do go and speak to the family afterwards or when you arrive at the wake, to offer your condolences. If you find it hard, talk to them about a memory you have of the person who has passed away, or ask if there is anything you can do for them.

If you’re still unsure about any aspect of the funeral you’re attending, you could always ask a member of the family or someone close to them. They’ll be grateful for your attendance, as a full church is always of great comfort to any family who has lost a loved one. Or speak to the funeral director; we’re always here to help with all of our funerals here at Austin’s.

 

 

Funeral transport: Making your last journey personal

June 28th, 2019    Author:

Funeral transport: Making your last journey personal

There are many sayings in life about journeys and travel. A journey is a common metaphor for life itself and they form the basis of numerous inspirational quotes. But we’re also a generation of physical globetrotters. We plot where we want to go, what we want to do; we have scratch maps to complete, bucket lists to fulfil.

So the final journey we make after we’ve passed away is, surely, just as significant. By choosing a mode of transport and a route to take to the final resting place, which are personal to the deceased, a funeral can feel more about their life than their death. It’s not about going into the dark and unknown, but celebrating life and creating more memories.

Our blog on personalising funerals [link to personalising funerals blog] touched on transport, but here we’ll look at it in more depth.

Why is funeral transport so significant? 

There are two aspects to personalising funeral transport. Firstly, it allows the deceased to travel in a way that is very personal to them, whether this is by their own planning before they pass away, or down to friends and family fulfilling their wishes on their behalf. This might be in a vehicle they owned themselves, something they loved going in, or perhaps even always wanted to experience!

There was a story in the news recently of a man who’s dying wish it was to have his coffin transported in the bucket of the JCB he drove for 30 years. There are some beautiful pictures online of the JCB taking him on the short journey from his home to the funeral, followed by his family and friends on foot. (https://metro.co.uk/2019/04/24/granddad-taken-funeral-bucket-jcb-9294632/)

The second aspect is about those left behind. Depending on the transport chosen, they can walk alongside, drive, or, in the case of a hand pulled bier, even carry their loved one themselves and be beside them right until the end. In some cases, following a traditional black hearse in a funeral car may feel quite distant and unfamiliar for the bereaved, perhaps even a bit stressful. It’s important to see how something as seemingly insignificant as the transport can help our stress and mental attitude at such a difficult time. [link to funeral stress blog]

A study by the Co-op revealed that more and more people want their funerals to be personal and celebratory affairs with Land Rovers and rainbow-hued vehicles to take them to their final resting places – and companies are responding to these wishes up and down the country!

 

What types of transport are available?

At Austin’s, we can arrange various modes of transport and always do our best to make your wishes happen. Aside from our traditional black hearses and limousines, we can offer…

  • A motorbike hearse with a sidecar for the coffin, from the classic style Triumph through to the iconic Harley Davidson
  • A VW campervan, which can also be accompanied by stretched Beetle limousines and a fleet of VW buses
  • A variety of different model Land Rovers
  • A 1950 vintage lorry
  • A hand pulled coffin bier, which has been in the Austin’s family for generations
  • A horse-drawn carriage with black or white horses

Around the world there are all sorts of options available, from New York taxi hearses to hot rod hearses. Another story that made the headlines was about a lady who arranged for a motorcycle hearse and a procession of Harley Davidsons to lead her funeral procession, after having her first ride on a Harley two years prior – aged 97! (https://www.expressandstar.com/news/local-hubs/staffordshire/cannock/2018/11/03/great-grandmother-taken-to-her-final-resting-place-with-a-harley-davidson-funeral-procession/) You’re never too old to develop a new passion!

The final journey

Aside from the mode of transport, the final journey our loved ones take can also be made very significant by taking a personal route.

Earlier this month, the funeral of a long-serving paramedic and firefighter was reported in a local newspaper. He had a funeral cortege of emergency vehicles, which stopped briefly at the ‘Old Fire Station’ before continuing to the church, and then passing the fire station where he worked one last time before proceeding to the cemetery.  (https://uckfieldnews.com/emergency-vehicles-to-join-funeral-cortege-of-bruce-davy-uckfield/)

Whether your loved one’s wish is for one last tour of their hometown, a final blast down the bypass in a motorbike hearse, or even a brief stop at their favourite pub, you can make their final journey memorable and unique.