I have been interested for a while in Lonely Funerals – these are funerals where the deceased has become so isolated in life that there is no-one, no friends, family or colleagues, present at that final moment. An initiative, first championed in the Netherlands, seeks to mark these sad events with a poem. Local poets are informed about an upcoming Lonely Funeral and given whatever information may exist about the person’s life. Sometimes that is just a few fragments, but that can be exactly the kind of material that lends itself to being worked up into a poem. In this way, these people who had become so isolated or marginalized in life can at least have the dignity of a small memorial.
My friend Andy Jackson and I had hoped to do something similar to the Dutch project here in Scotland. And after a lot of planning and chatting to people, mainly here in Dundee but also across Scotland, early this month we contributed to what we believe to be the first Lonely Funeral in Scotland and possibly the UK. Andy was given some of those fragmentary details of a life that are so characteristic of these events and in just a couple of days had written a beautiful and moving poem, which he read at the funeral.
Here is a fuller report of the event on the Lapidus Scotland website. Lapidus Scotland works with people, groups and organizations across Scotland, offering reading and writing activities to promote health and wellbeing, and is supporting the Lonely Funeral initiative.
It was a sad event and a sad day, but at the same time had a quiet dignity, a special moment. I hope that in future if people in whatever capacity, funeral directors, council officers, solicitors, care home staff, police…. if they become aware of a possible Lonely Funeral they will be moved to contact us so we can honour the person’s life with a poem.
Michael Hannah, Dundee, 23 May 2023