Yesterday I attended a funeral at the local crematorium. It was a well crafted, warm and, I am sure, helpful service in which a life was celebrated and hope and assurance given. It was also a valuable learning experience in terms of discovering some of the local funeral customs which differ from practices 'down south.' Everywhere I have lived or worked there have been variations in the customs, and everywhere I've lived or worked people have assumed everyone does what they do. All of which makes me wonder what kind of continuum or discontuities there might be in customs as one moves around Britain, never mind the world. And just what is 'normal'?
I also realised just what a crematorium snob I have become over the years, and wish that architects would consult with those who conduct the services when they deisgn new crematoria. To be fair, this was quite an old chapel, reflecting a very different age, and a lot of work had been done to make it light and airy with some lovely stained glass behind the catafalque. It just wasn't an ideal layout and the 'flow' was at best slightly odd with potential for funeral parties to get tangled up on a busy day.
For me though, the most odd and slightly discomfitting aspect of the venue was the location of a small Jewish burial area immediately behind the crematorium chapels. I assume the Jewish community have found their ways of living with this, but it just seemed odd, and somehow wrong that a faith for which cremation is anathema would have its burial ground cheek by jowl with a crematorium.
And then I wondered what people would make of what I think of as normal and appropriate and 'right.' Plenty of food for thought.