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Archive for the ‘Funeral planning’ Category

I had a great meeting this morning with Paul Fears, a professional photographer. It was an extremely uplifting experience as we chatted for an hour and a half about ……. yep ……. death and dying! The people sitting next to us in the Village Hotel foyer were certainly giving us the occasional funny look probably thinking that we were a couple of macabre lunatics.

I met Paul quite recently at a networking event and we got chatting. He was telling me about his work as a photographer and I mentioned to him that there was a still small but nonetheless increasing demand for professional photographers to be present at funerals to record the event for the family. He wasn’t aware of this. I suggested that he might like to add funeral photography to his portfolio of services, unaware at the time that Paul is especially well qualified to take on such sensitive commissions.

If you visit Paul’s web site (http://www.paulfearsphoto.co.uk) you will see the usual array of photographic services. But there’s one service that Paul doesn’t actively promote, concerned that it might be considered in poor taste: photographing people, many of them children, as they approach the end of their lives.

The very special thing about Paul is that he has lived with the underlying but daily threat of death now for 20 years – and not his own. Paul’s Down’s syndrome son, Greg, was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension when he was just two years old and his parents were given a life expectancy for Greg of just eight years. He is now 22.

As a result of his son’s illness, Paul has had a lot of involvement over the years with Ty Hafan, a team of palliative care specialists that works with life-limited children and their families. (Go to http://www.tyhafan.org). As anyone who has ever watched a documentary about Great Ormond Street Hospital will know, even when children are seriously ill, life for them and their families isn’t all doom and gloom. There are parties, laughs and jokes set against the ever present backdrop of potential imminent loss. From his own experience, Paul recognised that families might want to capture some of these precious moments for when their child is no longer around, so that, in time, they can look back with happiness on their child’s life and remember the good times amongst the bad. So Paul has been providing this service, free of his professional charges, to families who want it. And his sensitive approach, informed by his own personal circumstances, means that the end results are something that bring the families great joy and comfort.

In addition, one of Paul’s closest friends lost his battle to cancer aged 52. Just prior to his death, Paul’s friend asked him if he would shoot a family portrait. Even though it’s evident that he was very ill when it was taken, surrounded by his wife and children and with a beaming smile, this final photograph is a wonderful memento of a husband and father and is one of the family’s most treasured possessions.

Also, this friend had asked Paul to deliver the eulogy at his funeral that would be a true reflection of the life he’d led and be more of a celebration of the good times. He said that it must be kept secret from everyone until the actual funeral service. Paul had traveled extensively with his friend in their younger days and had lots of stories to tell, most of which the family were completely unaware. There was laughter from everyone in the congregation, including the family, who expressed gratitude to Paul for such a warm, funny and very human tribute to the man they’d loved and lost. While Paul gave a copy of the ‘script’ to the family he admits that what he actually said varied as thoughts had come to him while speaking. He wishes that there had been someone there to video the speech and the congregation’s response to it, believing that this would be a wonderful thing for his friend’s family to have, especially as the children get older and memories fade.

I remember at my own father’s funeral in August 2009, the weather had been atrocious for weeks and I was fully expecting and dreading a grey, very wet, miserable day. In the event, we got lucky and the day of the funeral was beautiful. We all ended up back at my sister’s house. She has a very large back garden and a spontaneous game of cricket somehow came about among the old, not so old and very young in attendance. Cricket had been my dad’s game in the summer. I can remember him sitting for hours with the cricket on the TV in the living room, apparently oblivious to what was going on as he appeared to be totally absorbed in the Daily Telegraph, that is, until one of us dared to approach the TV to switch channels. This was in the early 70s before remote controls. Then he would emerge from behind the paper with a look that warned us not to take another step. I sat watching the cricket and could imagine my dad watching from wherever he now was and thoroughly enjoying the antics out of everyone. It was such a lovely day and I thought afterwards how it would have been great to have some nice photos or even a recording of the cricket game.

Of course, funeral photography is always going to be a very sensitive service and I’m sure that it won’t be for everyone, professional photographers and the bereaved alike. But I believe that, as people increasingly come to view funerals as more of a celebration of a loved one’s life, recording the event, far from being seen as morbid, will be seen as just another way to create and keep yet more precious memories.

In my humble opinion, if anyone is qualified to deliver such a service it would be Paul Fears.

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I’ve had a very interesting day today. I’ve been door knocking, in a very well-to-do area, speaking to people about the benefits of paying for their funerals now in order to fix the cost at today’s prices (on average £3300 for a cremation) so that their estate or family won’t be have to pay a significantly higher fee when the inevitable eventually happens.

Because of the area I thought that people would already be sorted or be interested in receiving more information. To say my eyes have been opened would be an understatement. Personally, I think this is a no brainer. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to save thousands of pounds in unnecessary funeral costs so that more of your money goes to the people you love or a favourite charity?

But it seems that there are lots of people out there who couldn’t care less. ‘No, not interested’, was a stock response when I told them that planning ahead and buying a plan now would enable them to leave more to their families or ensure that their families weren’t left to shoulder a potentially large financial obligation. Really? Not interested in ensuring your hard earned cash goes to the people you love most rather than to pay an anonymous funeral director and your local council? I wonder if I’d knocked on the door and said, ‘Can I interest you in a cash gift of £5,000/£10,000/£30,000 for absolutely nothing?’ whether their response would have been the same. I think I might try that line next time because these are the kinds of savings we’re talking about; not a paltry few hundred quid.

How do I arrive at these figures? A cremation today costs, on average, £3,300. Prices have been going up by 7% a year for the past few years. If this continues for the next 30 years you arrive at a figure of just under £25,000. And, if there are two of you, that’s £50,000 out of your estate instead of just £7,000, all because of apathy. Another illustration: prices go up by 4% annually but you are only 50 now and will live for another 40 years. The price then will be a mere £15,000 per funeral. Add just 1% and you’re looking at £23,000 each.

I wonder how the children of these people would feel if they were aware of these facts and knew that their parents could have paid just £7,000 if they’d just bothered to consider the facts and do something about it.

Others admitted that they had thought about buying a plan but that they just couldn’t bring themselves to do it. Further conversation revealed some ridiculous superstitions. Come on people; we’re not in the middle of deepest, darkest Africa here where people still believe in voodoo claptrap. We’re in the UK in the 21st century. Sorting out stuff to do with your inevitable demise doesn’t mean you’re going to drop dead an hour later anymore than taking out buildings insurance means your house is going to burn down.

Others, who were obviously well into their 70s if not their 80s, seemed to believe that they were never going to die. ‘Oh, it’s a bit too soon to be thinking about all that’. Seriously? Do they put something in the water in these streets that means people are immortal?

I can only imagine the frustration if you are the child of one of these types of people, trying to persuade them to see sense. Fortunately for me, I’m not. My very sprightly 81 year old mother has taken the intelligent, pragmatic and considerate approach and got everything sorted and paid for. I hope she’s around for another 20 years at least – she’s under orders to get to 100 – and although there would be more than enough in her estate to settle the significantly larger funeral bill (around £13,000 instead of £3,300 at the current 7% annual increase rate) surely that’s not the point. The point is why would you choose to just throw away £10,000 that could have been used to benefit your family or do some good in the wider world just because you couldn’t be bothered to take some action and fill in a few forms, you allowed yourself to be swayed by a totally irrational fear that you must know is ridiculous or you just refused to face up to the fact of your own mortality as if this would somehow save you from the inevitable? As they say in Yorkshire, there’s nowt so queer as folk!

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It’s not surprising that people don’t pre-plan their funerals; in the UK it’s hard enough persuading them to make a will with apathy being the main reason why people haven’t got one. Most people mean to do it but even a third of over 55s still haven’t got round to it. And anyway, why put it off? I watched a documentary about Olympic rower James Cracknell the other night. I had no idea he had come so close to death as a result of a cycling accident which wasn’t in any way his fault and he was only 38 when it happened. We just never know what is going to happen and when do iIf you’ve got one or more of either children, possessions and assets, no matter how little in value, you should have a will.

But death is a tricky subject. Try bringing it up at the next dinner party you go to and see how long it is before someone begs to change the subject! The very idea of death is distasteful to people, even causing genuine fear in some, as if just talking about it could make it happen, so people put off putting the practicalities in place that, when the inevitable happens, would really help those left behind.

So here are Top 10 reasons to pre-plan your funeral:

1. It gives you peace of mind.
2. It shows that you care enough about yourself and those left behind to do it.
3. It removes the decision making burden from your children and family members.
4. It eliminates the potential for family rows.
5. It prevents the wrong decisions about what people think you would have wanted from being made.
6. You are able to personalise your services so you get exactly what you want.
7. It enables you to create an end that is a true reflection of who you were in life – your values and beliefs.
8. It sets an example.
9. You may be the sole survivor in your family so providing detailed instructions is a sensible insurance policy if you are worried that your death will ultimately be overseen by strangers.
10. You control your funeral and burial expenses.

Pre-planning your funeral is not scary; it’s just planning. It may only take as little as a couple of hours, depending on how much detail you want to go into and how far into the process you want to go. You can start by writing your wishes down and giving them to a family member or friend. You can do this on your own or Lovingly Managed can help you put your wishes in order. Additionally, you might also want to take the next step of pre-paying for your funeral with a pre-paid funeral plan. Lovingly Managed works with the industry leaders in this area and can advise you on the best policy to suit your circumstances.

So don’t let your fear of death cause your family more pain than is necessary when the moment arrives. Pre-planning will put your and their minds at ease and they will thank you for it!

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