When folk entrust us to assist them to frame the funeral of a loved one or dealing with ashes, we stand in our personal spiritual integrity without imposing it on those we are invited to honour.
Creoginity sees its role as that of honourably recalling the life of the deceased by respecting the values they expressed in life, whether Faith, Atheist, Humanist or other, so while our CEO (Rev. David Gray) is a Christian minister regularly doing services across Christian denominations by invitation, he deeply recognises the genetic-spiritual connectedness between all people. He and his colleagues regard each person as a unique and wonderful being and affirm the benefits to all of cooperation across spectrums of faith, culture, philosophy and human endeavour.
David and his network partners are available, happy and willing to support Funeral Directors in offering Families and Friends of Deceased Souls, however they identified in life, meaningful frameworks for marking the end of a loved ones life. We offer a compassionate link between Funeral Directors and Next of Kin, who we will assist and support as they express their wishes regarding frame their loved ones funeral.
In this regard, David and other ministers he liaises with undertake Humanist, Pagan, Christian, Atheist, Interfaith and other celebrations of life.
"Gorton is well served by this wonderful organisation which caters for everyone as an individual. Long may it continue" - Brian Mulligan - Mulligan's Funeral Directors.
“Ken was one of those people who had a sort of magic. He seemed to fill a room with his presence. It would only be a matter of time before he had people laughing and chit chatting. He had worked professionally on cruise ships and maybe there he cut his teeth, so to speak, in the art of entertaining people in a very warm and inclusive way.
I miss him and will always remember him. While attending the North West Swim last night, which was actually dedicated to Ken’s memory, many who attended the funeral were present. You might like to know that in the course of the evening all those who were there were bubbling with enthusiasm for your service! It amazed those who were there, as indeed it did me! Quite a few asked what denomination you were and I explained and referred them to your web site. I do so hope very much that you set a trend nationally and that others start to emulate your style. It would help so many people.
I, and everyone else at the funeral, thought that the way you conducted the service was simply fantastic! Absolutely brilliant! It was just the right mixture of the comic and the wistfully sad; done in a northern style that was so utterly Ken! I could picture him looking down and smiling and chuckling in the way he did when things ‘tickled his fancy’, as he might say. He was so full of jokes and fun all the time! You also brought a lump to everyone’s throat and a tear to quite a few eyes.
The ending ‘tarrra’ was brilliant! Quite perfect!
A funeral as a master class in performance art! I was astonished and delighted! It is something that no one who was there will ever forget.
You are blessed with a rare talent and a wonderful vocation.
Visit "Funerals: Fonder Farewells" on Facebook:
Please ask your undertaker to ring us on 07927 734 419 if you wish David or one of his network partners to take your service and we will contact you to arrange to visit to discuss your needs. You may also like to use the contact us section of this website.
Deep Regard to you at this time of grieving.
“DYING 2 LAUGH”
(Using humour in funerals to authentically
capture the deceased’s character)
© Rev. David (Punk Monk) Gray 2013
BACKGROUND and RESISTANCE:
When Queen Victoria mourned her Albert, she set a tone for funerals in England that still influences the way we mourn over a century and a half later. Wearing black, the dower tones of a minister reciting Psalm 23 and periods of mourning had become the one size fits all funeral offer.
Professionals, including counsellors and mental health practitioners, wrote reams on the “journey of grief”, defining how we were expected to respond at the death of a loved one. While useful for some, for others this “expert” driven framework effectively compounded powerful cocktails of emotions that are around following a death, especially for those who could not grieve according to the perceived convention. In the main, funerals had become humourless affairs.
Things began to change as the more joyful notes of Afro-Caribbean and other emerging cultures sang alongside our more solemn rituals and people began to talk about “Celebration of Life” as secular music increasingly took preference over traditional hymns.
Religious scripts for funerals are wonderful for those who find comfort in the familiar words, but after almost two decades of steering close to such a script it was clear to me that for most C21st people, its formula’s are not familiar and offer little connection or comfort to an increasing majority of people, and People need connection when grieving someone who has been a huge part of their life.
After resigning my Anglican bishop’s license, I was free as an Interfaith practitioner and Tau Franciscan to offer people services that were about them and their understanding of life, death and the cosmos. When people increasingly asked for my services, including many frustrated with churches they had belonged to but which had shown little Christ likeness towards women; children; other faiths; lesbian, gay, bi and trans people; other cultures; the poor and a long list of others who did not fit their limited view of what it is to be a divinely loved human, I got a lot of flack. One senior churchman accused a family who had asked me to do their Mother’s funeral of being misguided. Even though they had little connection with the church, in the midst of their grief he was trying to bully them into having a church service. I’d been totally unaware of this until he turned up at the service and collard me afterwards to tell me he would do all he could to use the influence of the bishops in the House of Lords to make it illegal for anyone other than a parish priest to do funerals for those not affiliated to a particular faith. It was only after he stormed off and family members came over to ask if I was ok that I learned the manipulative and offensive way he had tried to put pressure on them.
Another churchman (it was always the men) accused me of robbing the church of its rightful revenue because I reduce my fees for families who are struggling. In his view, the fee’s had been set by synod and everyone should pay the full amount to the church. I even received a letter from a bishop demanding that I stopped doing funerals on “his” patch. But I’ve stood up to bullies all my life and was acutely aware through my previous work as a counsellor, mental health practitioner and social worker of how many people had been deeply damaged by such abusive assumption of authority over other people’s lives. This had nothing whatsoever to do with the Jesus I know who meets people where they are, loves them for who they are and invites them graciously to reconnect with their selves of divine intention.
Thankfully, the world is changing and the majority of church folk are changing with it as they get back in touch with the gospel example of meeting others without judgement or dogma. As the old guard march into the sunset, a more wholesome church is emerging.
In time, those who think its about them and their personal power, position, income and theologically trained intellect will be replaced by honest to goodness men and women whose hearts are opened to the whole human family. Such people will realise that funerals, like weddings, naming ceremonies and other rites of passage – and they are rights as much as they are rites that no institution should monopolise – are not about them, but about the real, flesh and blood human beings they are invited to offer services that are only divine because, like Jesus, Gandhi and all great faith figures, they are truly human.
TOWARDS HOLISTIC WHOLESOMENESS:
The words via which folk let go of a loved one have to mean something to them and have to be relevant to the life of the person they remember. Without such connection, people are in a low energy place from which it is difficult to move on.
When folk are grieving, the ingredients of that cocktail of emotions referred to previously may include: loss, anger, anxiety, guilt or pain. If the person delivering the service and in particular the eulogy that tells the story of the person being remembered listens carefully to what loved ones are saying and reflects this back in the delivery, funerals can become uplifting experiences that don’t sweep grief away but, by reminding us of the authentic character of a person, help us move out of the mire of grief on our journey of recovery.
Though the examples I’m about to give may not seem funny to anyone who didn’t know the person they concern, to those for whom these accounts were written the humour was priceless and helped stimulate the ventilation of grief and the sharing of memories when people gathered at the local pub or in a family home for refreshments.
1: “Good Golly Miss Molly”:
Molly, Ron’s wife of over sixty years had died and he was feeling empty as we discussed the funeral together with his children. During our chat, Ron had got quite animated when talking about their courtship and the music they had enjoyed during the sparkle of their youth.
Solemn organ music played as I bowed before the closing curtains at the end of the service – before the sound of Little Richard belting out “Good Golly Miss Molly!” filled the chapel. When I offered that frail old man my arm, his eyes lit up and to the applause and laughter of his family, he and I danced out of the crematorium together.
Ron’s son brought him to see me some months after Molly’s funeral. Ron chatted animatedly about Molly’s funeral and smiled as he hinted that I was to do his funeral soon. He was right. It too was energised by an authentic telling of his astonishing life.
2: Ghost Riders in the Sky:
When I met Dave to arrange his biker brother’s funeral, what he told me recalled my memories of watching black and white news coverage as a youngster in which people claimed to have seen comets and UFO’s dancing above Snake Pass between Manchester and Sheffield. Come the day of the funeral we went in to “Ghost Riders in the Sky”. These extracts from the service will give you an idea why:
READING: Extracted from 1970’s news reports:
“News just in: two police officers patrolling in Derbyshire close to the town of Glossop late last Wednesday evening reported seeing strange lights travelling at speed along the Snake Pass”.
“It was as if two comets were dancing over the tops”, said PC Barrington. I’ve ne’er seem owt like it!”
“A couple parked in a lay-by at the foot of Snake pass last weekend claim to have sighted two Unidentified Flying Objects hurtling across the sky”.
“It were proper eerie”, said a young lady, who asked to remain nameless. “Who knows what might have happened if I’d not told him to get us out of there quickly? Why, we might have been kidnapped by Alien’s!”
“I know what MIGHT have happened”, said her companion, with a look of deep disappointment on his face.
FROM the EULOGY:
… Melvyn and his mate Icky were a couple of genuine, hallmarked greasers. Icky could strip a motorbike to the bone and put it back together in the time it took most people to boil an egg. Icky’s hands wore a constant covering of grease and he and Melvyn had a little hobby that started a legend over in them there hills.
Snake Pass between Manchester and Sheffield is a favourite route for bikers. Back in the day, it was notorious for biker races. It was also notorious for biker fatalities. Nevertheless, Icky and Melvyn used to race across the Snake regularly at breakneck speeds. Being clever buggers, they took precautions. They didn’t go slower, nor did they wear condoms.
O, no! The precautions Melvyn and Icky took were that they rode at night when you could see the headlights of approaching cars long before you were jam on their bonnet and being Gorton lads who’d learned a trick or two from– Gorton’s Belle Vue Aces, the world’s best Speedway team, like speedway riders the pair wore one boot of steel apiece, which they’d drag along the stony road as back-up brakes.
Those reports I read earlier are just some of the quotes relating to rumours of comets flashing over Snake Pass back in the day and of sightings of UFO’s o’er the tops. Truth can now be told without fear of prosecution: those comets were none other than Melvyn and his mate Icky – the ghost riders in the sky.
3: ALBERT & the LION:
When I visited “Uncle Terry’s” loved ones, I learned that his dress sense – influenced by his love of Music Hall comedians – was totally uncoordinated. The day of the funeral I wore a red woollen jacket, yellow trousers, one red boot, one blue boot and a floppy fedora hat. The lips of the first four rows moved in precise synchrony with Stanley Holloway’s rendition of Uncle Terry’s party piece “Albert and the Lion” as they entered into the spirit of his life. The following excerpt from Uncle Terry’s eulogy recounts his experience as a young soldier in Egypt during the Suez Crisis, where Terry’s courage earned him a medal for being first in the NAFFI every morning.
“Now inevitably, with so many soldiers out in the desert there needed to be more than ample provision for their ablutions. When ower Terry was appointed to latrine duty, he remembered some words of wisdom he’d heard from a keeper at Belle Vue Zoo as a boy: “Never hang around the tail of an elephant you’ve given a laxative to!””
“That advice saved Terry a lot of bovver, for the effluence from all those calls of nature was stored in massive sewage tanks, which had to be disposed of somehow and somewhere. The British Army solution was to load them onto Lorries so a local driver, escorted by six sappers, could transport them far into the desert where the sappers could bury the evidence deep in the sand.
His fellow soldiers thought riding in the truck where they could catch the warm weather was a bit of an outing. Terry, of course, had other ideas. He always got into the cab with the driver where, despite the confined space and heat, Terry reckoned he got the best deal. It transpires that if the British had upset the locals in any way, the driver would find the bumpiest routes into the desert. What happens when a tank of effluence goes over a bump? Yes, you’re ahead of me: it sloshes and it slops over the sides. Terry always arrived somewhat sweaty – but his mates always seemed to have travelled through a heavy shower of chocolate coloured rain…
A post conflict dig of those desert sands led to the discovery of a Mummy encased in a six inch layer of chocolate. It was a while before the archaeologists realised they had not, after all, discovered the remains of Pharaoh Rocher.
Conjuring up the character of the person they have known may help kick-start the sharing of memories that will continue at the wake, but what if you are dealing with deeper tragedy? Sometimes, it is the deceased themselves who guides you as to how best help their loved ones through the funeral.
When Lorraine Hill knew she was dying from cancer and would not see her three young children grow up, she showed a level of courage and wisdom that will stay with me to the end of my own days.
Lorraine talked with her partner and left him written instructions about practical things like school times, household bills and diets, but she talked with her children about how they should shape her funeral. Natalie, who would soon be eleven, remembered a “Mad Monk” from Gorton Monastery coming into her school.
“I know him”, her Mother said. “That daft sausage will understand. Get him to do the funeral but you lot need to decide how it shapes up”.
Nat’s younger brother and sister were only small, but they enjoyed helping her and older brother Nathan design “Punk Monk” for the day of their Mother’s funeral. As people turned up at the crematorium, they looked askance at the man dressed as a clown with a bright red Mohawk hair style.
“Its Ronald McDonald on acid”, one chap opined.
But when the cortege arrived and the children leaped out to greet me and receive colouring books and crayons, no-one was left in any doubt that today was for Lorraine’s children.
The service was a telling of stories peppered with magic. Sensitively, Lorraine’s children were reminded that their Mother’s love was so strong that though she never wanted to leave them, she was doing so with such grace and bravery that they would never doubt the lasting bond of love between them and their Mother as they grew up.
I’ve done the funerals of children – sometimes more than once in the same family; of murder victims; people who died in tragic accidents; suicides and a whole range of scenarios. As a veterans chaplain I’ve done the funerals of soldiers, sailors and airmen. Each situation is different. There is no script that covers all the circumstances that crop up in this particular aspect of my work. Inevitably, there are tears at every funeral I do – often my own. Indeed, if a day dawns when I don’t cry while preparing someone’s service from scratch, it will be time for me to pass the mantle on to another soul. That said, if those grieving don’t laugh at least once during the service, I will have failed to tap into their own inner resources; their incredible capacity to cope with life after the death of their loved one.
Of course, it’s not just about humour. Faith, storytelling, science, music and so many other threads need to be woven into the tapestry of any funeral service. Neither is it just about the service. Many skills and qualities are involved in the contact with family members both before and after the day of the funeral itself.
There are, naturally, many good parish priests with the life experience and personal qualities to offer good services to the bereaved. Services like those provided by myself and other Creoginity ministers with Christian, Pagan, Humanist and Interfaith backgrounds represent an emerging trend towards remembering someone in a bespoke, celebratory service that honours the deceased persons own approach in life while tenderly regarding those who loved them.
Is Queen Victoria turning in her grave?
Does anyone have any questions?