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The Musings of a Crematorium Worker

Life , death and everything in between

Direct Cremations and a Little Poem About a Serious Situation – Covid 19

I’m not ready to reflect on the Covid crisis, the tiredness we all must feel as an industry, the numbers or the risk we’ve all been facing throughout.  I want to, but I just don’t feel like I can. So I will reflect instead on a small part of the last few months; Direct Cremations.

This is when a deceased is taken to the crematorium without a funeral, without attendance other than the funeral directing staff handing the deceased over to the crematorium staff. This is the low cost alternative to a funeral.  Here, all direct cremations come through our chapel into the crematory but I know some places bypass the chapels and use only the back door entrance.

I never hear the history of the people in the coffins, I have no way of knowing their story because there is nobody there to say, not just a eulogy, but anything at all.  Pre Covid 19 you may have heard something like the person had died abroad and the families wanted the cheapest option to get the ashes of their loved one home.  Some may be having memorial services elsewhere at another date or time so no need for an expensive funeral.

During the Covid 19 crisis peak (which lasted about two months) these types of funerals increased from two or three a week to eight each day.  They arrived early in the mornings, prior to the days services and the coffins rolled in on trolleys by funeral directors one after the other.  We check the nameplates match the cremation cards and pull them through. We have two trolleys, two charging biers and not a lot of space (nine foot wide corridor to be precise). In came the first, one of us taking them to a charging bier. The next person taking the second deceased to the next charging bier. Both of us turning trolleys in 180 degree turns to return to the chapel. Now we are to repeat the process to the fridge for the next four coffins. Two remaining on the trolleys ready to load up our charging biers again, for straight after we had charged into the cremators. And that was the start of our days, a direct cremation dance in our crematory. We were dealing with numbers we had never had to deal with before. The amount of coffins toing and froing, you may as well played Strauss’s Blue Danube in the background because waltzing was our morning duty.

I know most of these types of cremation are what the person wants.  They’ve known what they were signing up for, they come under the other category I’m yet to mention, the “Just put me in a box and get rid of me.”  They don’t want any fuss or their families having to worry about them or finding money for a funeral. They’ve found the low cost alternative they are happy with. But the numbers are too many to all be like this.  There have to be some who couldn’t afford a funeral in this crisis so they have opted for the cheapest option.  Maybe some have chosen that limited attendance inside the crematorium chapels during this crisis would just be too restrictive and will be opting for a memorial service at a later date when they can all be together again, which is fair enough.

I do wonder how many people signed up for this type of cremation knowing they wouldn’t be causing their families any fuss, but not realising how soon their death would come? This pandemic has robbed many people of loved ones and decades from people who never knew their time was just around the corner.

When we had a busy day prior to Covid people would often describe it like a conveyor belt.  Nothing comes close until you’ve dealt with a pandemic.

One lunch break, in the sunshine, I wrote a poem specifically about direct cremations.  I didn’t name it, I didn’t see the point, it was just a little poem about a serious situation (maybe that can be the title).

Conveyor of coffins

Without the fuss

Their last rites

Entrust to us

 

Bring them in

Push them through

Now so many

Before so few

 

Their names lost

Among the list

What they wanted

They paid for this?

 

A humble bow

To those unknown

A mark of respect

To send them home

 

I hope you’re remembered

Though not by me

Next undertaker

Bringing in three

 

 

Why They Don’t Think To Thank Us – The Funeral Profession

I was having a discussion today about being the forgotten front line. We are the workers who receive next to no thanks from the mainstream media. We are the people nobody wants to think about at the best of times, so it is hardly surprising we are forgotten at the worst of times.
The number of funerals we usually do for the whole of May will be surpassed by the 14th. With the reduction in numbers of attendees at funerals the cemetery feels quiet, eerie in fact. With most funeral directors not using limousines, the mourners are emerging from the car park together. Waiting in waiting rooms is discouraged due to social distancing rules. So, a small meeting just before the hearse arrives and in they go. Usually, with only half the funerals we are currently having the cemetery would be heaving. The car park would be full, we would be asking people whose funeral they were here to attend to get them to the right chapel, there would be mourners looking lost, there’d be noise we would be trying to abate by gently guiding people into waiting rooms, there would be life. Instead there are small gatherings and raw emotions.
Today I saw a funeral that should have been attended by hundreds, a young woman, leaving behind a family and a child. Instead there were restricted numbers inside the chapel. While the pandemic has consumed our ways of living, there have been very few funerals that have got to me. You learn how to cope with the emotions otherwise you’d be an emotional wreck every day. But seeing the funeral of someone younger than me leaving behind a family is something you can’t just leave at work with the rest.
I was putting out noticeboards filled with the twenty one names for tomorrow’s funerals. The sun was shining and I heard an unfamiliar sound filling me with a sort of childhood joy, a smile, an extreme leap to the other end of the emotions of the day. It was an ice cream van chiming somewhere in the distance, dishing out a cold cone of normality I’d long forgotten about. Someone nearby would be getting ice cream in the evening sunshine. In reality it was only someone who can’t work from home returning to their business but in that moment, I realised why so many people don’t think to thank us for what we do. It is because on days like today I don’t even want to think about what we do and would rather be reminded of the small pleasures in life.  Stay safe all.

With Change Comes Implementation – Coronavirus

Unfortunately, we are working with numbers we never thought imaginable. Changes in the way funerals are being carried out has had to change dramatically to stop the spread of this deadly disease. Not all loved ones of the deceased are able to attend the funeral because of restrictions on numbers, family members in different households can’t give each other a comforting hug and no venues are offering wakes due to the social gathering ban.
However, with change comes implementation and I am hearing some horror stories amongst my funeral colleagues. I want to reflect on these because some of them have been hard to believe but come from trusted sources.
Some cemeteries have become like Fort Knox. They open the gates to let the Funeral Director and the hearse inside for the funeral. However, some are forgetting that they need to be present to unlock the gate for a FD to exit. An empty hearse needed for another funeral, waiting behind cemetery lines, while the FD frantically searches for a member of cemetery staff to let them out.
A crematorium was missing a reflection piece of music, an oversight on the Funeral Director’s part. This piece was a funeral classic so would have been on their system. It takes no time at all to do. It probably would have been quicker to add the song onto the system than it took for them to give their curt response of a shrug and “That’s not my problem.” Trust me, I know it’s not ideal when an FD forgets to include a piece of music on their finalised schedule, but come on? People are busy and mistakes can happen, we’re all meant to be working together here.
One crematorium was refusing to allow music to be played at all. We have a remote so whoever is officiating can operate the music from the lectern, allowing the attendant to carry out other duties, imperative at this crucial time. This crematorium would not put the remote in chapel. Their attendant was needed elsewhere so was not allowing any music because they were not there to play it. They were not cleaning in between services, and Funeral Directors were having to seat their families inside an unclean chapel, in the middle of a pandemic, with dirty tissues strewn between the pews.
One flower area at another crematorium had dead flowers from funerals over a week ago. So when a family stepped out to view the few flowers they were able to obtain for their loved one (another thing most families have had taken away from their funeral services because most suppliers have stopped supplying the local florists) they were met with a mountain of dying flowers left behind by other mourners.
A Celebrant printed off orders of service for a family, an extra one for someone who was unable to attend due to the restrictions on numbers. At seeing the additional order of service and hearing the explanation as to why the celebrant had printed the amount they had, the chapel attendant said “If there’s that number of people that extra one won’t be coming in.”
Then there’s the seating. We’ve all seen the pictures of the pews/chairs disconnected from their lines and scattered like puzzle pieces around the chapel at numerous venues across the country. I have the story of a crematorium so militant about not allowing families to sit together it broke my heart. A child, no more than 10 years old, forced to sit separate from mum and dad due to the scattered seating arrangement. This child shared a household with mum and dad but the authoritarian chapel attendant still made them sit apart. This little girl was brave, she stood up and delivered a poem on behalf of her grandparent and started to cry while standing at the front of the chapel containing the people who love her most in the world. That child, unable to be comforted by the celebrant beside her because of social distancing rules, cried all the way back to her individually placed seat, her mother and father seated 2 meters away. I may not have children but I know a mother and father would want to comfort their crying child. A mother and father in fear of being chastised by a chapel attendant for getting too close to their own daughter remained seated and watched her cry. Imagine being made to feel like that. The guidance does not separate households but militant chapel attendants do. My heart really reached for that little girl and her family.
I implore we as crematorium staff do all we can, for as long as we can for those who mourn. Funerals are currently scaled down occasions for a loved one who meant so much. This industry needs to take a long hard look at itself after this pandemic. Have some damn compassion, it’s why we chose these roles, or at least it should have been.

The Impact of Coronavirus on Funerals

I am no stranger to all the emotions working in the funeral trade brings but over this past week I have been asked to adhere to things that feel alien to me. When Boris announced all social gatherings were to cease due the coronavirus outbreak, except funerals, I was waiting for the further guidance to be released. There was a day when I thought the members of the funeral trade, in their heightened anxiety, was going to tear each other’s heads off. When I had people coming into the chapels, bearers were asking me vehemently why I wasn’t forcing mourners to sit apart, why I wasn’t protecting them or myself, why weren’t we adhering to what other crematoriums were doing? And the answer I had was because management were yet to make the crucial decisions that were needed, because each and every person seemed to interpret the ‘guidance’ differently. We were waiting for the ICCM to govern. Advice to drip down from the powers that be before we could implement anything.
And the slow and painful dripping down of information came and we then put a plan in place. No gathering outside of chapels or in waiting rooms, mourners encouraged to remain within their cars until the time of the funeral. No more than ten mourners in chapel at a time and this is to be main family members only. Family not allowed to bear in the coffin. Curtains to close/catafalque to lower has NOT been enforced at this time but we ask funeral directors to make sure mourners do not touch/kiss the coffin. Only one person to be allowed to witness the charging of the coffin. Once a chapel attendant has shown in a service, we are to remove ourselves from chapel.
This is not normal. Every time I show a service into the chapel and have to leave, I feel like I am abandoning my colleagues the funeral director and the celebrant/minister. It feels everything we have strived for, the compassion we show people and the deceased is being squeezed from us and then I remember why. A minister said to me today at least I was still here doing my best for people even though I am having to enforce things I’m not particularly comfortable with. If it wasn’t for us, funerals wouldn’t be going ahead. I’m having to say “Very sorry these toilets are closed, please use the others available, we are trying to reduce the parts we have to clean,” containing it to one set of toilets for two chapels. I apologise for the stickers we’ve placed on chairs; these are the places we recommend you sit (unless you are living in the same household). We cannot allow more than one person through to witness the charging of the coffin. “I know this is hard.” “I understand.” Most people have been really understanding. They get it. We are doing as much as we can to reduce the risk to them and to us. Between each service we are cleaning every door handle, we are cleaning down the lectern, the Wesley media remote the officiant has to touch to play music, the chairs are wiped down. But there’s many people I advise to place their orders of service keeping social distancing in mind and their answer is basically ‘our loved one would think that was a load of old shit.’ What can I do when that occurs? I don’t have any powers of enforcement. I’m not the bouncer of this public space.
With so many crematoriums adhering to different rules, it makes me wonder how we can all be doing such different things? We need guidance. Because the managers in the industry are governed by different motivations such as private sector by money and local authority by trying to allow a family a funeral whilst doing what they claim is the maximum for their staff, it’s all ripping the arse out of this industry as we know it. We are compassionate people finding it so hard, so gut-wrenchingly unfair to families, whilst recognising there is a real risk by us, and the others we share this industry with, turning up to work every day. This virus is spread by social gatherings. They trace Italy’s problem down to a football match. And although this is a smaller gathering, minimised even further by reduction of mourners, emotions are running high and people are hugging and crying. I know no one wants to make that decision, I know how tough it is, but should funerals with mourners really be going ahead? I’m not saying they shouldn’t, I’m saying we should be having the discussion. This ‘half funeral,’ is it enough? All I know, if there was a time NOT to die, it would be now.

Coronavirus and the Bereavement Industry

This is such an unusual circumstance for my first blog post in a long time. I wanted to give a huge shout out to my friends and colleagues in the funeral trade. It was only yesterday the government classed us as key workers. I was up in arms about that, until a colleague quite rightly pointed out that we only ever get included as key workers last minute due to the panic our profession can cause. I was worried about the funeral and cemetery staff who have children who would be stuck at home unable to send them to school because we didn’t have key worker status. A huge shout out to the NAFD and anybody else who had involvement in getting this question asked in parliament.
Every year we go over our pandemic plan. The steps we would take if we were met with an unprecedented amount of deaths. And every year I never take it as seriously as I should because I never envisioned we would ever put it into action. Society is so advanced in medicine how could a disease spread so fast we are unable to contain it? And here we are, pubs, restaurants and anywhere people congregate closed to stop the spread of a disease that can bring our society to a grinding halt. At present, our funeral services are business as usual, except for the hymn books having been removed from chapels. The information we are getting from management is fluid, constantly changing by the minute. It is likely funeral attendance numbers will be reduced, but when and how we implement that I have no idea as we are a public space, unless government cancel attendance to those too? Those are decisions I’m sure no one wants to make. There’s going to be many more victims of this virus. The children at the schools who won’t be sitting their exams. The elderly who are effectively very well cared for prisoners excluded from their friends and family. The vulnerable trapped in isolation in unhappy homes. There are people unable to get the shopping they need because human behaviour is just savagery usually suppressed beneath a virus free society. And then there will be deaths, made even more upsetting by people not being able to attend funerals – whether that be due to isolation or an enforced ban on attendance.
The NHS staff are currently doing their heroic duties to minimise the need for the bereavement industry. Someone suggested to me the government may have been lying about the actual numbers of coronavirus deaths so far and it’s all a massive cover up. We have seen an unusually low amount of deaths. If there was a cover up of any description there would be a massive jump in the number of funerals taking place at crematoriums across the country and that is just not the case. One day this week we had only three funerals. That is very few for a crematorium like ours which covers such a huge borough. There’s no cover up, but we will be needed at some point in the future.
Am I panicking? The answer is no. I know us as an industry will pull through times of trouble as we have done when any tragedy occurs. Grenfell. Terrorist attacks. Accidents. Coronavirus. The bereavement plans are rolling into action behind the scenes. There are funeral directors preparing for an increased workload. We are preparing for numbers we’ve never seen before. Nobody wants the numbers that have been speculated, and we are nowhere near it and won’t be for a number of weeks if the worst was to come. I just know people’s loved ones will be looked after with care, dignity and respect and my colleague’s in the funeral industry will keep this world turning in its darkest hour. For a set of key workers so rarely acknowledged, to all my colleagues in this industry no one wants to think about, I salute you.  Stay safe and stay sensible.

Rain at the Crematorium

Sitting talking to an FD, rain pouring down outside the foyer doors, the chapel to our left, service in progress.

“Bet you’re glad you aren’t on a burial,” I say. He laughs, no doubt some poor colleague of his has drawn the short straw. Soaked to the skin, coat tails weighing a tonne. But this FD is ok, he’s on a cremation job with me. Luck of the draw, some other poor bastard out in it today.

This job is hard enough but when it rains, my god it gets you down in the dumps. We currently have a complete cremator refit. Our crematorium is not our own. We have engineers, electricians, brickies, people pipe fitting. Our quiet, humble, hard-working crematorium is not our own. All these guys are lovely, hardworking, and sensitive to the environment around them, they’ll happily leave the crematorium when we need them to (when people are coming into the crem to witness cremations) or when we have scheduled chapel services and they are going hell for leather drilling, trying to get the noise complete before the services starts. There is mess everywhere, rakes for the cremators aren’t where they are supposed to be, tools are scattered around in an order which make sense only to the workmen and there’s always someone in the place where you need to be working.

Our small space has transformed into a building site. You go from the serenity of the chapels, to the industrial side of cremation and that’s a drastic change when things are normal, but this time we have a building site on our hands. Your suit jacket shouldn’t touch the walls of a crematorium at the best of times due to the dust. Now you’re having to do dust inspections on your suit when you’ve had it on in the space they are working.

One of the two new, shiny cremators has just gone up and running. It has a bigger width so we can accept wider coffins. So we won’t be shitting ourselves half as much when you see a 33 inch coffin arrive at your chapel doors, knowing you won’t have to squeeze it into a 33 inch cremator door and chamber. You watch it scrape the sides of the cremator walls and you pray to the man upstairs whether you believe in him or not. And it is touch screen. Cremator technology is definitely coming on up in the world. Problem with it for me is it’s like having a new mobile phone; it does the same job as your old one but how it works is all different. I work through habit. I like knowing what buttons I am going to push before I have pushed them. I like having confidence in my own ability to know what to do when the shit hits the fan. I don’t like having to think about things. It will definitely take some getting used to. I will upload some before and after photos when the renovation is complete.

I hate change at the best of times. A few weeks back our fridge broke at work. What does this have to do with anything I hear you ask? Well, the fuckers changed it for a smaller one, that’s what. Who are these fuckers? The truth is, I haven’t actually got to the bottom of who is responsible yet. So we have had at least 15 workmen on site, plus our own 4 members of staff and they have traded us a fridge that is half the size. Half the capacity. It’s filled to the brim. My colleague can’t even fit his lunchbox in the fridge. His sandwiches are sitting amongst the carnage, crushed by cans of drinks. My hummus had fallen amongst the chaos the other day. I found it between a milk 5 days out of date and a mouldy old sandwich someone had forgotten about. Things are going off because nobody has a clue what is going on in there. It’s too small to keep control of all its contents

And this rain lately is just adding to my work woes. Two funeral exit songs summed it up, thunderstorms, lightening, biblical rain and we’re exiting to The sun will come out tomorrow And in the afternoon when the sky had gone even greyer after a day of heavy rain we walked out to Mr Blue Sky by ELO. Sometimes, you just have to have a small smile to yourself as this ying and yang world hits you with some irony.

The Knocking Coffin

We are in the car heading up to the NFE 2019. Next to me is my colleague who had an absolute nightmare this week. She’s the one who loves to jump out on us, scaring the shit out of us in and around the crematorium. She’s the one with nerves of steel. When we were younger a friend once jumped out on her in a Scream mask and she punched him on the nose.

She was in the crematorium alone. The funeral service had taken place, the mourners had left the chapel and she removed the coffin onto the trolley and into the crematory. When there was a knock on wood. Fierce, strong, desperate. There must be someone at the door. So she walked to the door to check who wanted to come in. There wasn’t anybody there. So she returned to moving the deceased to their next destination on the charging bier where their journey into the cremator would shortly follow. Until she starts to move the coffin again. At that moment a more desperate; Knock. Knock. Knock. At this point my colleague has figured out there’s no one trying to get in. So someone must be trying to get out. She’s taken one step back. Two steps further away. And then abandoned the coffin altogether and legged it to where my boss was talking to two funeral bearers in the chapel waiting room.

‘Boss, we have a problem. We have a coffin knocking at me.’

The most fearless person I know was saying the most incomprehensible thing and had turned a ghostly pale. The FD steps in and says the deceased is definitely dead. She’s had a post-mortem. No chance of revival.

The conclusion to this is that the person was knocking on the internal door, not the outside door. They must have been scared to step past that door, not knowing what they would find. And their knocking was at the moments my colleague was touching the coffin.

The following day, news of her mistake travelled around our local FD’s. She’s had all the comments. ‘Shall I check this one isn’t alive?’ And she has been sang to ‘someone’s knocking at the door better open the lid, someone’s knocking at the door, better get it in the fridge.’

My unflappable friend who scares the shit out of us regularly had her dose of karma bite her on the arse this week. See you all at the NFE.

Coping With Busier Periods at the Crematorium – Fuel Poverty

I’ve just popped into the library to read my book and write part of a chapter for a book I’m working on and a local paper is there next to me. Innocent enough, except we all love to procrastinate before we do any work right? Well, three pages into the paper and I see the figures of the excess winter deaths in our local area and I’m thinking that will make a great blog post. I must admit, since my blog post about mourning a friend my motivation for my blog has waned somewhat. But here I am finding motivation to write about work when I should be relaxing and concentrating on other projects with my two weeks annual leave booked for my thirtieth birthday. I promised I wouldn’t even think about work but here I am.
The excess deaths due to cold homes in the winter of 2018 (locally) was 150. This was a 23% increase on the previous year. The article spoke of fuel poverty in London and the warmer home scheme funds available to tackle this growing crisis. As much as I would love to give an opinion on this that’s not why I am writing this piece. I’m here because sometimes I’m asked if we have a ‘busier’ period at the crematorium. Yes, we do. Summer is a quieter period for us, whereas winter? Strap yourself in because our feet don’t touch the ground. We are busy. Some cremation slots are free, where you may get a breather but mainly you’re working a chapel back to back all day, cremation cards queued in your pocket and my God you’re praying you get the name right. It’s made even more difficult by having two chapels adjacent to one another so if you’re in the chapel closest to the car park you tend to get everyone coming to you first. Make sure you’ve got your paperwork handy because I don’t think any human on earth can remember that many names, times and chapel locations. Sometimes even the funeral directors get it wrong and drive to the wrong chapel. If they’ve driven the hearse to the first chapel, you can wave them on and the family in the following cars are none the wiser. Not so good if they go to the second chapel further away and must make their way back around the one-way system with a funeral cortege, all in front of a group of mourners who did not belong to their congregation but for the funeral using that chapel next.
Busy days make my head spin. You’re working on slot times making sure all the needs of each funeral are met and this is usually given to us on our notes for the day if we have been informed by funeral directors. Just to give an idea of these requests; some need an easel for photographs, some request rows reserved for family, some request symbols of religious denominations are removed from sight, some need trestles for an open coffin. Some have given no requests at all but have very specific requests when they arrive. For all your planning you can’t cater for this and you must accept you lose time to these things. Everything is on the clock. We prefer not to faff because it eats into people’s slot time. And by the end of the day you breathe a sigh of relief. And that’s chapel attending. It’s worse when you are cremating. You have coffins coming to you, two every forty-five minutes. And contrary to popular belief, the cremation doesn’t take place behind the curtain or when the catafalque lowers. We retrieve the coffin from the catafalque and the deceased is moved to the fire or the fridge. Even if we had all three of our cremators going at the same time some coffins on busier days have to remain in refrigerated storage until a cremator becomes available. Or the cremation takes place the following day if there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
Busier days can be made difficult if a service overruns due to too much content or a eulogy reader going off script. Good officiants will cater for these events and speed things up if necessary. There are events you can’t cater for. Recently we had a mourner taken ill during a service. Fortunately, the ambulance was on site very quickly and the lady was conscious and responsive on leaving with the ambulance. The family quite rightly wanted to finish their service and the skills of the minister was used to condense the remainder of the service to minimise the impact on following services. On instances like that you always look for a committal service (these are when a service has already taken place elsewhere and the deceased is being committed at the crematorium only) to get you back on track. However, if there isn’t this type of service throughout the day you just have to apologise for the delay and explain to each FD who will explain it to their families and make each arriving mourner aware of the situation (so they don’t wander into a funeral they aren’t here for and miss the one they are). It frazzles my brain when timings have all changed and you must concentrate on what service is taking place even though they are in another person’s time slot due to the delay. NEVER get a name wrong.
I can’t offer an opinion on how the government can prevent the elderly dying in their homes due to fuel poverty. I can’t even offer the scientific reason of why this country seems to get a damn site colder in the winter than it used to. But what I can say is there are hundreds of chapel attendants/crematorium workers running around and making sure we keep the high standards of business as usual, even when the winter strikes.

Mourning a Friend

I lost a friend recently. We attended university together, we did the same course, we shared a period of our life doing something we both loved. We critiqued each other’s work in class, we did a group project in our first year together which she made enjoyable even though I hate group work. Outside of class we drank together, we had a similar circle of friends, she was the most out going of all of us and she was as vibrant as her hair. I was shy in those days and she was kind. Not just to me but to everybody. She was warm, and she was funny. We’d lost touch over the years, we liked each other’s Facebook status’s and we got on with our separate lives. She was someone I never forgot and always looked forward to meeting back up with when the inevitable university get together eventually happened. You know, the one we just never got around to organising.
One evening I’m singing in the kitchen preparing dinner with my partner. Good times you don’t realise you’re having until the Facebook message came through shattering the happiness.
My partner asking me if I’m ok.
Yes, I just need a minute. One of my uni friends has been killed.
How?
A hit and run.
The tears.
A fucking tragedy the world could’ve done without. The loss, the anger, the sheer unfairness of the most vibrant, kindest life being lost to some arsehole not driving a tonne of metal the way he should’ve been was something I never saw coming. I deal with death every day, I see these kinds of losses, but nothing prepared me for it being to one of the warmest people I knew. I often feel working in the bereavement industry sometimes robs me of my grieving process. But not her death. I mourned like we hadn’t lost touch.
That university reunion we never got around to organising was her funeral. We travelled to a part of the country she had settled in with her partner, not to say hello but to say our goodbye. A natural woodland burial where she will return to nature. A fitting funeral for someone who had the world’s best interests at heart.
I’m watching the funeral director, judging how well he conducts this funeral. The way he failed to warn us of markers protruding from the ground lacing this funeral with humour as some of us stumbled when they caught our feet. A giggle knowing she would’ve found it funny and called us silly fuckers.
After a brilliant eulogy from a celebrant we were invited to place an autumn leaf into her grave. My friend who I had travelled up with had brought along two leaves found at the university we attended. She asked me if I would like to have one and we walked up to her open grave and placed them in together. I watched them drift down and land on top of her coffin and the perfectness of that small gesture caught at my heart. It was like we had placed some of the best memories I’ve made in days when we had our whole lives ahead of us with her. I will never lose them and if there is such a thing as an afterlife she could go on her way with them too. She lived every fucking minute of her 28 years on this earth. 28 years of age. We think there’s always time. Time to meet up. Time to get reacquainted with old friends. Time to make more memories. Time before forever comes to an end. Until the clock measuring our time in this life ticks it’s last second and all we have is what we did before it stopped.
As the large crowd dispersed the six of us who attended university together (and a friend’s partner) stood in a circle with an ever so slight parting with our friend’s grave in view to me in the background. If I could draw I would sketch that scene because it was powerful to me. I knew the gravediggers were somewhere politely waiting for us to leave so they could do their job and go and enjoy their Saturday afternoon, while we stood and discussed our modes of transport to get back to the wake while life made us leave her behind.
Rest in peace my friend, your death will forever be mourned by us. In the years this life gives to us we have promised to meet up more. You will always be remembered, alcohol will be consumed in your name, we have promised to do something fun in your memory because you were the most adventurous person we knew.
Remember, there’s always time, until there’s no more seconds left in this life for us. Tomorrow isn’t always promised so be the best person you can be today. And live every damn minute, just like she did.

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