Who are we to judge decisions on funeral arrangements made by the recently bereaved?

Grief can do strange things to your judgement and reason, but any decisions made by family and friends must respected by everyone else

Share

Our instinct when we see displays of gaudiness in mourning might be to curl a lip and resist the urge to look on with prejudice. Perhaps you will admit to such feelings after seeing pictures today of the “Costa coffin” in Swindon, and, last week, the bright-pink hearse used for the funeral of Roger Lloyd Pack, who played Trigger in Only Fools and Horses. Whatever happened, you might ask, to dignity in death?

“Making a mocha-ry of tradition!” reads the headline on the Daily Mail’s story about the themed coffin. It carried the body of Karen Lloyd, 51, a mother of two boys, who had died of cancer. Her family had requested the burgundy livery to honour of her fondness for the high-street chain, above the words, “one shot, extra hot skinny latte”, her favourite drink.

Meanwhile, our own John Walsh wrote of Lloyd Pack’s hearse last week: “I’m not saying it was inappropriate, just a bit pink for a sombre occasion.”

But who are we to judge the decisions of the recently bereaved? I remember a conversation at the kitchen table with my mother and her friend a week or so after the sudden death of my father, in 2001. He had been cremated in Canada, where he died, during a brief service in front of only a handful of people. Back at home, we were planning his memorial service, which for nearly all of those present, including his parents, would hold the same importance as a funeral, and would be held in a church. What music should we play?

I was still a teenager and in that age of a father-son relationship when the generation gap is at its widest in the car on a Sunday evening during the top 40 singles chart. He liked classical music and opera and put up with a lot (this was the Nineties). But when one song of unsurpassed silliness and banality played, he developed a perverse fondness for it. It was called “Who Let the Dogs Out” (“Woof, woof, woof woof!”) by the Baha Men, and became a running joke in the family. What better way to honour Dad’s silly side than to play it at the service, I suggested. It would tickle him, and those who knew him best.

I was serious at the time but with deft sensitivity my mother and her friend guided the conversation elsewhere and the dogs would not be unleashed. I am glad in retrospect because for that crowd, on that day, in that church, it wouldn’t have been quite right. But what is “right” in those trickiest of times, when grief can do strange things to your own judgment and reason, must be decided by the bereaved - and respected by everyone else. If there is one place where we should reserve judgement, it’s here.

Separately, there is a case not for “mocha-ing” the traditions that surround death but challenging them. Who makes the rules that govern funerals or memorial services anyway? Karen Lloyd’s family are not alone in seeking to express the character of the deceased in his or her coffin. In 2012, John Graham, of the 1960s rock band The Ramrods, was buried in a giant  Fender Stratocaster. Last month, the family of a biker from Ohio buried him astride his Harley-Davidson. In some parts of the world, tradition demands elaborate, themed coffins. And why not? Such expression should not be incompatible with dignity in death.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in hock to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before