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Posts Tagged ‘funeral planning’

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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Recently, Lovingly Managed was granted associate membership of SAIF (Society of Allied Independent Funeral Directors) and we were asked to submit around 400 words to be included in SAIF Insight. We duly obliged and thought no more about it. Here it is.

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Lovingly Managed is a company offering a wide range of services that cover the spectrum of death and dying from end to end. Within this, the company provides a number of services relating to funeral organisation. These services are ones which are not undertaken by the funeral director so, by taking them on, Lovingly Managed aims to relieve the bereaved of still more of the administrative burden associated with organising a funeral. These tasks include things such as ringing or writing to relatives and friends of the deceased to inform them of the venue, time and date of the funeral; sourcing a venue, if required, and organising the catering for any post-funeral hospitality; sending out thank yous/acknowledgements for the receipt of flowers and donations on behalf of the family. Lovingly Managed will also send out first anniversary announcements or respond to first anniversary acknowledgements, organise an anniversary memorial service if this is required or work with the family to create an on-line memorial.

Lovingly Managed welcomes the opportunity to work in partnership with the independent funeral sector, providing our services on an outsourced basis so that independent funeral directors can enhance their service offering without increasing the workload for their existing staff or incurring higher staffing overheads and, as a result, be in a position to deliver added value to their clients and so gain a competitive edge within their local market.

While we’ve given a lot of thought to the kind of help a family may want in relation to a funeral, in addition to what is provided by their funeral director, and to what a funeral director would feel were services that naturally complement his/her own and so would be happy offering them to clients, we are always willing to consider any request for something we may not have thought of, either from the client or the funeral director.

Lovingly Managed also operates a referral scheme for funeral directors in relation to the drafting of Wills, Powers of Attorney, Advance Directives and the company’s own End of Life plans. Our End of Life plan allows people to document specific and detailed instructions regarding their end of life and the finalization of their estate that are not contained in a will or other legal document. They can prove immensely useful for people who are on their own and are worried about who will take care of things and they can also help to eliminate the potential for disputes between bereaved family members. They are a natural partner to pre-paid funeral plans. Contact us for more information on our referral scheme.

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Then we received the following email:

“I have seen your advertisement in this months SAIFINSIGHT publication that we receive as Funeral Directors and also reading your website I want to express my opinion. As a PROFESSIONAL funeral director of some 17 years dealing with hundreds of families I am so angry at what you say you can deliver especially what you think funeral directors do not do! You mention funeral co-ordination and organisation! and mentioning what we as funeral directors do not offer or organise. Can I tell you as a private family business what we provide families is second to none every detail is covered every option given, I wouldn’t dare hand that over to someone else to do for me. Your information is very misleading to say the least. I am going to go through your website with a fine tooth com be so to speak, and give my findings to the relevant funeral organisations. I am also going to express what I find to other funeral directors. SAIF also whom you advertised with need to look at what they print, again I am going to speak with them direct. I am so angry, I have looked after some very high profile funerals one in particular last year that was covered by all media, the amount of organisation, preparation and co-ordination that goes into all the funerals I look after not just that particular funeral, I treat as a privilege to able to organise. I trust you are all professionals yourself which I respect, but what you offer is a jumble of different things. I am also looking at your bronze silver etc etc plans, again its very interesting to say the least.”

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Ooops, we do seem to have upset someone. Never were the words ‘I’m just a soul whose intentions are good, oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood’ so appropriate.

Looking at the wording of what we’d written to see what could possibly have caused so much offence the only thing we could think of was that we should have qualified the sentence “These services are ones which are not undertaken by the funeral director so, by taking them on, Lovingly Managed aims to relieve the bereaved of still more of the administrative burden associated with organising a funeral” by adding the words, ‘as a general rule’ after the word ‘not’ i.e. ‘These services are ones which are not, as a general rule, undertaken by the funeral director so, …………’.  Or maybe the misunderstanding arose because by stressing the word not he thought we were somehow being critical of the service FDs provide when, in fact, our intention was to stress that our services don’t impinge on those provided by the FD but merely complement them.

When we set up Lovingly Managed, we researched where the funeral director’s service ends, AS A GENERAL RULE, and looked at where we could pick up any slack and offer additional services that would relieve the bereaved of more of the administrative burden that arises  in the immediate aftermath of a death.  In addition to that, we have all arranged funerals of close family members so know from personal experience what additional help we might have wanted which wasn’t part of our funeral directors’ service portfolios. This is in no way meant as a criticism of the service offered by funeral directors, just a statement of fact. Every business has to decide the scope of their service, what they will do, what they won’t, where their service ends or you could go on and on.

Obviously, from what our detractor has written, he won’t be interested in working with us because he offers all these services himself. Good for him. No one is forcing him to work with us; no one is forcing anyone to work with us. We have a service which we believe could be of benefit to funeral directors, not necessarily all of them, and their clients and it’s there if they want to avail themselves of it. If not, so be it. And, as it was an internal industry magazine, it’s obvious that it was not our intention to denigrate the service provided by funeral directors with the general public. But what I find perplexing is why he should take such offence at our service to the point that the tone of his email becomes vaguely threatening. He is going to ‘go through our web site with a fine tooth comb and write to give his findings to the relevant funeral organisations and he is going to express what he finds to other funeral directors’. I’m not sure what he thinks he’s going to find but he seems pretty determined to be as down on us as he can be as well as to actively undermine us to others and all this without ever having spoken to us.

Contrary to this attitude, Denise and Sharon recently attended SAIF’s Welsh Regional Meeting and Christmas Dinner and met several funeral directors who felt our business concept had merit and were interested in exploring how we might potentially work with them so we are encouraged that there is acceptance within the independent FD sector; hopefully the suspicious will be a small minority.

Denise, Sharon and I started this business because we believe we offer a valuable service that bereaved people will find helpful at a particularly difficult time in their lives, a view which is regularly reinforced when we speak to members of the public. We are therefore saddened that this particular individual seems to wish to attack our credibility and read the worst into what are genuinely good intentions.

PS: Next day …….

Oh, and then we received this one from someone who chose to contact us totally anonymously from one of those web sites where you can set up a bogus email address. I wonder why?!  May I just point out that the spelling mistakes are those of the author, so have a read and decide who is the ‘unprofessional’ one between us.

From: daffyduck@*************.com [mailto:daffyduck@**************.com]
Sent: 12 December 2011 14:27
To: info@lovinglymanaged.com
Subject: Lovingly Managed – Feedback
Name: Walt disney
Email: daffyduck@**************.com

Feedback: what a mickey mouse outfit you are, totally unprofessional chancers wanting to make money by offering deflunct services. It amazes us how you get away with what you offer and the price.. property seraches! room clearance! end of life planning! help with moving! escort service! why not add walt disney production!…

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We all worry about our children when they’re small, and as they’re growing up, and do all we can to make their lives safe and happy. For most of us though, by the time they are grown up, we can relax a bit knowing that, in the main, they’re finally able to take care of themselves, although it doesn’t necessarily stop us from worrying. When the time comes for us to shake off our mortal coils, our offspring are usually middle-aged with young adult children of their own.

Sadly, some parents never get to this point. Depending on the degree to which their particular condition impacts on their ability to live independent lives, special needs children may very well rely on their parents, to a greater or lesser extent, for the whole of their parents’ lives. An almost universal worry of parents of special needs children is what will happen to them after they, the parents, are no longer around. There may be other children in the picture but even then parents can feel guilty about leaving them with this additional responsibility. Also, as no one can predict the future, there are no guarantees that brothers or sisters will, in fact, outlive their special needs sibling.

Of course, as people with special needs age and their parents die, the state could more than likely take ultimate responsibility for their care and, if required, for their burial and cremation when they pass on. We’re not criticising what the state provides as we’re sure that, in the absence of parents or other family members, the social workers and carers who are looking after these adults at the time of their death do their absolute best to give them a dignified funeral. But wouldn’t it bring greater peace of mind to know exactly what kind of send off your child was going to receive?

Parents can plan NOW for the passing of their special needs child, regardless of their current age, specifying the details of any funeral service, selecting readings, music, flowers, type of coffin and burial, location of final resting place and write a personal tribute to their child which could then be incorporated into a eulogy at the time of their passing. As it’s unlikely that a special needs adult will ever be in a position to plan their own funeral, it makes perfect sense for parents to make these decisions rather than professional carers, no matter how well they have come to know the child as an adult and how well meaning they are.

Lovingly Managed offers a service by which we take instructions from parents regarding the funeral of a special needs child which we can ensure are carried out at the time of their passing. Even though we personally may have passed on ourselves, our business will go on and of course copies of the plan can be provided to family, friends, carers or local authorities for future use and knowledge.

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