Sunday, March 18, 2007

sunday morning musings

This little rant got triggered by reading an article about the hidden brilliance of messy people.

Last year, when the Not Boyfriend had the misfortune of burying his uncle, he loudly lamented the ineptitude of the people responsible for putting him in the ground. The franchised firm of undertakers, sold on their femininity and rather large hats, had not pleased him. Up until the actual interment things had seemed to go ok. But at the final hurdle they’d mucked something up and once the bill was paid they took no responsibility for a further insult that the aggrieved had been put through.

From my viewpoint outside of the family, bar one hiccough, I thought it had gone really well. You see, a decade or so earlier when my family had been put in a similar position to deal with the death of my brother, we were directed to the Fawlty Towers of the funeral world.

The first time around you are an innocent. “Six Feet Under” wasn’t even an embryo and we we’re not only in a foreign city but had no cohesive plan for such an event. The hospital put us in touch with a mid-priced North Shore establishment, a family business rather than part of an impersonal empire, which supposedly had a good reputation.

There were two things that hit me when I walked into the foyer – how much it shared the ‘70’s decorating palate of my parents’ home and the incredibly tacky hearse shaped clock. A harried late middle-aged woman came to attend us, her husband the actual funeral director out on business although we had called to arrange an appointment. She looked like she was in the middle of cleaning the oven and probably was. We were ushered into an office that fortunately was low on tack but high on mess. The “Clutter Clearing” phenomena had not yet hit but these guys would have made a fine first customer. The desk, probably non-descript wood veneer was covered in piles of paper, some of which overflowed to the floor. I didn’t feel entirely confident that we were in the right place, after all at that time my image of undertakers was centred around hushed tones, dark clothing and some degree of luxury. This place obviously wasn’t a stretch limo kind of establishment.

Finally when we got down to brass tacks (of which the coffin lacked, nails definitely but not brass) we were offered a bare bones kind of service. There was to be no viewing of the body and they told us without handles on the coffin there would be no coffin bearers. The service was to be shoe horned into 25 minutes and These Were The Rules. Stunned as we were from watching a family member die in front of us that morning, we weren’t in a position to question anything.

The day after the funeral I found a great book. It demystifed the business of death and I learnt the ‘rules’ were in fact minimal. For example, we could have asked for a double booking at the crematorium chapel if we wished to take our time. Simple things, though stuff we felt unable to ask for at the time. But at least we had negotiated a few changes before the cremation and had managed to be instructed on how to carry the coffin, so my brother was born to the service by 6 strong men who loved him.

As for Fawlty Towers Funerals, I don’t know if messy means brilliant. Would I have preferred the women in nice white suits with homely, mess-free rooms and bowls of potpourri – most likely.

Author disclosure: Though a very clean kind of person, she is a clutter queen from birth and in fact, is quite possibly brilliant.

Exhibit A (below): The author at her desk

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Blogger GoAwayPlease said...

You call that clutter ?

First, it lacks a cat. So maybe you aren't so brilliant ?
Actually, 'tidy' just means 'anal retentive', not 'organised'.

Decades ago, one of the Mitford Sisters (imagine a Wiki link there) wrote The Loved One an expose of the US funeral biz and about Mr Joyboy the funeral director. I think it became a movie so imagine a link too.

People in shock are easily exploited unfortunately, and during every funeral i have ever been to, I have sat there thinking I would have done it better for the deceased and for the mourners.
The awkwardness has to be removed.
I wish I could run "Joyous Departures" and play Oh Lord Didn't He Ramble" and get everybody a drink before they sit to recall how they failed the deceased.

Florists deserve a Post of their own. One time my special flowers were delivered by the Funeral Directors error, to an earlier funeral and tossed on the garbage we had to PASS on our way to the funeral they were intended for.

2:19 pm  
Blogger MelbourneGirl said...

oh my god that pink the background is EXACTLY the same as the pink i had in my dining room in the flat in st kilda. i've painted over it, but at a time way back when i wanted to patch some parts i couldn't get the colours matched.

re the clutter, my desk is terrible. my whole office is terrible. the floor beside my bed is terrible. and when i tidy up a bit, like yesterday, then i can't find anything.

2:51 pm  
Blogger MelbourneGirl said...

ps re that book you found the day after the funeral, do you still have it? what's the name of it?

i believe death should be demystified, we are all so godamned scared of it (myself included) but it's as natural as anything else in life.

2:52 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Brownie: As there are currently 4 felines in residence there is usually one sunning him/herself behind the curtains. Behind the printer is a nice gathered effect in the fabric and below the desk the curtains are thoroughly shredded now thanks to the resident Siamese.

Melbgrl: The book is at work now. I think it's "Funerals to Celebrate Life" by Marian Barnes (australian, published early 90's). Maybe we should start a demystifying death wiki?

4:07 pm  
Blogger Mikhela said...


4:48 am  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Yes Mikhela - when I saw the clock I just knew we were in a classy establishment and gave them my complete trust!

7:59 am  

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