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I'm a Crematorium Snob!

This I decided when I eventually found the crematorium this morning - if only AA routefinder gave H and V numbers for Milton Keynes... fortunately I had heaps of time, found some helpful council gardeners and my mother survived me shouting at her that there was no point saying 'that way looks good' when she had no more clue than I did.

Maybe the deep sadness of a young man with only seven people to mourn him (plus his cousin to officiate) added to the sense of the event, and it was a cold, damp, grey, old kind of a day.  Logistically, whilst I'm not keen, the crematorium is very well laid out, unlike one I've been to in Warwickshire where corteges 'cross' mourners returning to their cars.  But it felt horribly clinical and cold (despite a red hot waiting room).  Hard tiles on which shoes clatter; completely bare, almost white walls; a tiny cross high on a stark wall; clumsy wooden pews not quite designed for the purpose; oh, and a little silver cover for the curtain button in case you inadvertently pressed it before you meant to...  Add to the that the very basic coffin, starkly unadorned, and the ache of bereavement was probably the most intense I've ever sensed in such a place.  The staff were incredibly helpful and kind, the acoustics worked well and the garden area for viewing flowers (had their been any) was tastefully arranged.  There was nothing wrong with it at all, it is a well conceived, functional crematorium, I just didn't like it.

So I conclude I'm a crematorium snob!  I like places where the mourners can move completely indoors from waiting area to chapel, where there is carpet to soften the foot falls and something other than stark walls and a coffin to look at.  I can cope with the odd failed lightbulb, I've decided (though it annoys me!), and even slight shabbiness because somehow it softens the clinical feel of a conveyor belt system.  I have my preferred crematoria and one I really dislike (which wasn't today's) and realise that no one size fits all.  Despite my snobbery, and despite the incredible sadness I felt today (more because of the situation than the place) the undertakers and crematorium staff were superb which, ultimately is more important.


  • In these days of 'health and safety', I am a snob about carrying coffins rather than wheeling them in on a trolley. I really dislike trolleys!

    And there are definitely some firms of undertakers which are better than others. Unlike you clergy-people working up at the front of the chapel, I am often sat at the back, working the PA. And I hate it when I can hear the undertakers staff having a loud conversation in the vestibule about their weekend plans. In fact, I remember once, one of our stewards actually going out and saying "Excuse me, please can you keep your voices down, our Pastor is conducting a funeral in the Chapel!"

    And I know it is meant to symbolise burial - but I do not like the crems where the coffin descends into the plinth- I prefer ones where the curtains slide discreetly across. Providing the track has been oiled and the drapes do not stick or squeak!!

  • Curtains, hmmm. The worst I ever encountered (in the North West, I won't say where exactly) were pink and ruched (what my sister and I used to term 'harlot curtains' when we were in our teens). The catafalque was such that it jutted out into the chapel and had curtains on three sides; the coffin was top-lit with spotlights. At the designated moment, the curtain descended and the lights dimmed. It was GROSS!

    I've one been to a place where the coffin descended and it did feel very odd. That crem. had a wonderful view over open countryside through massive windows and I guess they felt that it was better for the coffin, already fairly low down as I recall, to disappear downwards than be off to one side. I tend to prefer curtains, but maybe that's because I'm used to them - though a very quiet motor hum is useful to reassure that the curtain is closing when its several feet behind you!

    As another friend would say: the things they don't teach you at college!

  • The things they don't teach you at College, Huh?

    How about a Module on Work Based Learning, with student minister assigned to a crem for five weeks.
    Or a yellow and black Funerals for Dummies!

    Does anyone know if those who design crematoria, those who mange them, undertakers as they develop their customer care, ever consult meaningfully with officiating clergy or faith groups as part of the decision making and policy forming process? I've never been asked by any in the funeral trade what I think - which hasn't stopped me telling them....... :-)

  • All of those sound good to me Jim!

    To be fair, Northern did take us 'behind the scenes at the crem' which was a very useful experience. Still haven't worked out why I mentally said 'farewell' to the coffin of a total stranger as it entered the cremator but there you go.

    The worst crem I've been too was, allegedly, designed in consultation with faith groups and undertakers - and then they ignored all the suggestions; hence corteges crossing outgoing mourners, a room that is gorgeous but completely the wrong layout with its catafalque in a very odd place and so on.

    Oh, and until the yellow and black book is published, there's a lovely publication I'm sure you'll have encountered called 'The Dead Good Funeral Guide'

  • A minister friend once suggested 'Funeral Praise' to go alongside 'Mission Praise' and 'Junior Praise'. That's not the same as 'Funereal Praise' which is commonplace in some of our churches...

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