Usually when I am asked to conduct a funeral, the family has already selected a funeral director. Sometimes, if they already know of me, they will ask the funeral director to contact me. More often the funeral director will suggest me to the family.
But a recent job came by quite a different route. A celebrant friend of mine from England contacted me to say that someone she knew in Paisley needed some help and advice. Her friend’s husband was sadly very close to the end of his life. Paisley is quite a long way from Dundee but I said that I would be prepared to help if I could.
And so I had a chat with the family following the gentleman’s death. It was immediately clear that this was a very spiritual family. I felt they would want a very particular style of funeral. The daughters spoke to me about Celtic traditions – the fact that their father had died in the season of Samhain was significant to them. They also wanted a natural burial and were hoping that they could have a funeral at the woodland burial ground in Lochwinnoch. The gentleman had always loved trees and the natural world.
At that stage they had not engaged a funeral director and I could see that they would probably want an independent. So I called James Carcary , the Scottish president of SAIF (National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors). He immediately suggested Kenneth Keegan Funeral Directors. I passed this on to the family , they spoke to them and decided that was the firm they wanted to handle arrangements. So sometimes it is the celebrant who makes the recommendation of undertaker and not vice versa.
With November weather very unsettled, the family decided to hold the main part of their celebration of life and eulogy in the chapel of Woodside Crematorium. This is a very fine space, filled with light from its many windows. It also allowed the service to be streamed to many relatives and friends across the world.
Following that, we drove in cortège to Lochwinnoch, some ten miles away. The woodland burial ground is a magical and beautiful spot and we held a final and very moving ceremony not far from the River Calder, which we could hear in full spate.
For me a day of journeys. I don’t know how often I could work so far from Dundee but it was an immensely rewarding experience and one I would definitely repeat.
Michael Hannah, 19 November 2020