On the same day every July since 2014, Affertons has received a thank you card from the girlfriend and sister of a teenager who died tragically and unexpectedly. For Paul Craigie, funeral director, it brings back mixed feelings of an exceptionally sad event that he was glad to help with.
‘A 19 year old father passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly leaving his family with a financial nightmare they never expected to have. There was no money and when the story featured in the press, Affertons stepped in to do everything at cost.’
But not all the funerals Paul has arranged and remembered so vividly have been as heart-breaking, and he has some fascinating stories to tell. Over the past 10 years or so, a changing attitude towards death and funerals has emerged, with the mood becoming increasingly about celebrating a life and marking the passing with something highly personal to the individual.
‘One family asked if it would be possible to carry out the funeral using their own flame painted hearse and have their loved one laid to rest in a ‘Bat Out of Hell’ themed coffin,’ remembers Paul. The individual was a Meat Loaf tribute act. He and his family wanted any arrangements to reflect his passion and it definitely made for an unforgettable day. The family were delighted.
‘We like personalising funerals but for them to work well you have to be a skilled listener to glean exactly what the family wants. In fact, I’d say listening is the most important skill of any funeral director.’
Fortunately, Paul is an extremely skilled listener, and with more than seventeen years of experience, has helped organise many unusual funerals. One he remembers particularly involved a biker who wanted to be transported on a motorbike with the coffin as a side car. According to the family, he had always been a bit of a rebel so they wanted the funeral to be memorably anarchic. It was!
‘As well as the unusual coffin, they requested we enter the crematorium the wrong way’ adds Paul. ‘That raised a few eyebrows, especially as many of the guests followed him on their bikes!’
But Paul’s experience even before he joined Affertons has helped him deliver on unique requests. He once worked with a pyrotechnics company in London. So when a family recently asked if he could fulfil the deceased’s greatest desire, he could and did. She wanted her remains shot into space in a rocket. Paul carefully and safely built a rocket, which was set off over the River Tay.
Funerals are emotional and often deeply sad, as with the young father who died so suddenly, but it helps if the family can say their goodbyes in a personal way, unique to their loved one. We always try to do that at Affertons, listening to what families want so we can deliver something personal and memorable.