Okay, where to begin in a subject that most people fear, many avoid, quite a few are inquisitive about when given a safe opportunity, and everyone is going to have for themselves? There is no choice in this last respect.
If history bores you, you will be pleased to know there will be little in this essay, even though it is a fascinating subject. We will get one piece out of the way at the beginning, why funeral? Well the word is derived from the Latin funus, meaning funeral (among other things) and funale, meaning torch. The Romans believed that lighting torches guided the dead to their resting place. Perhaps that is something we replicate today by lighting candles?
The important thing to understand, like setting up a pension or writing a will, is that it is never too early to plan a funeral.
There are two facets to a funeral:
disposing of your body
While this sounds a little blunt and harsh, it is one of the essential tasks in a funeral.
The second part of a funeral is:
a ceremonial parting
So far, so good. But these two facets require a modicum of planning and there are two people, or groups of people, who have to take responsibility for these decisions.
you or your family.
Okay, you can opt out and let your family make all the decisions, but this can put a lot of pressure on your dear relatives when they are already coping with the emotional pain of your death.
The second option is to do the planning yourself. This has two benefits. First, you save your nearest and dearest a lot of potential anguish. Second, and most interesting, you get the funeral of your choice. In this post modern age, this gives you scope for a lot of creativity.
At this moment, if you know you are about to die, you are in the position of being able to plan your exit if you wish. But, you may not know when you are going to die, and so you have the option to either plan now and make all your wishes known, or you could risk leaving it until later, and face the possibility of running out of time.
So, let’s assume you have decided to plan your own funeral. Let’s look at some of the factors to consider.
making a start
Let’s look at the first task I mentioned, disposing of the body. There are essentially two ways to do this. The first is natural decomposition. By far the best way to do this, for some fairly obvious reasons, is to bury the body in soil, or cover it with soil and rocks. In this state it causes no bother to anyone and relatives have a place to visit.
Burial at sea is still an option but you cannot take your loved one in a rowing boat from your local beach and toss them over the side. In the UK there are only three places where burial at sea can be done. Official sanction is required at strict conditions followed. All of this makes the process extremely expensive. Another method is sky burial, which is long drawn out, and not legal in many developed countries.
The most common places for burials to take place are in religious burial grounds, local authority or private cemeteries and increasingly on private ground. Burial on private ground is perfectly legal, subject to a few minor statutory requirements. Burial on your own land should be well thought through.
The second method of disposing of a body is by accelerated destruction. By far the most common is cremation. Cremation, as a method of disposing of a dead body, is a process that has been practiced by many cultures, for millennia. In the UK today cremation can only be conducted in an approved crematorium. Home funeral pyres are not allowed. Viking burials fall somewhere between cremation and burial at sea. Unfortunately this combination contravenes all the legal requirements for both.
There are two other options that may well become available. Resomation, which degenerates the body by alkaline hydrolysis and Promession, which achieves degeneration by extreme freezing.
If you choose to be cremated, you then have to decide what happens to your ashes.