DIY funerals: from Coronation Street to Co Down
As ‘Corrie’ characters Hayley and Roy consider a DIY funeral, one man who went the same route with his partner tells of his comfort in taking control of life’s toughest event
Although we had been told that some undertakers might be reluctant to sell a coffin on its own as part of an “a la carte” service without the full funeral package, that was not our experience. Our local undertaker was friendly and accommodating, advising us that this coffin from their brochure could be purchased with a simple phone call when required.
We knew we would need help when it came to preparing the body, and it appears that the days when this skill was available in the local community are gone. We made inquiries among district nurses, care workers and clergy as to who might be able to prepare the corpse. All our inquiries drew a blank. Fortunately, in advance of the death we agreed with the undertaking firm that sold us the coffin that it would prepare the corpse as well. We did not request embalming. The charge for the basic preparation was £75.
We had a preference for a church service for the funeral, so we advised in advance the relevant clergy of the expected death. I typed the service sheet in advance – including the hymns – ready to be photocopied once the date of death was inserted. We also had a preference for burial rather than cremation. We already had a family grave in a graveyard. I contacted the gravedigger.
“No man knoweth the day or the hour” (Matthew 24:36). Even the best-made plans for an impending death will need to be altered. Here is how it panned out for us.
Mervyn died peacefully at home with me by his side on Friday, August 2nd, at 6.20pm. We kept his body at home that night at a cool temperature. The following morning I phoned the funeral service to complete the purchase of the coffin and requested that the funeral service collect the corpse to prepare it before it was returned to our home.
I contacted the church and the clergyman to agree the date and time of the church service. I informed the gravedigger to ensure his availability on the same day. Normally an undertaker would attend to these tasks. Once these details were confirmed, the finalised death notice was emailed to The Irish Times and I alerted my list of volunteers that they should begin their tasks – providing the vehicles, flowers, photocopying of service sheets and catering.
The day before the funeral, a volunteer collected the death certificate from the GP’s surgery and registered the death at the registrar’s office. This must be done before the funeral can take place. We waked Mervyn at home that evening. We made one room in our house available for viewing of the coffin. Fortunately we remembered to choose a room into which a 6ft coffin could easily be carried. It felt right that mourners could say goodbyes to Mervyn and offer support to me in our own home.