Take your leave on your own terms

Long gone are the days when the only difference between funerals was the name being read out. A funeral can now be as individual as the life being celebrated.

“Your last goodbye could be exactly as you want it to be,” says Gavin Murphy, funeral director at Gee & Hickton in Wellington.

“Funerals are very much about the person now and they can be adapted to suit anyone. We’ve had cases with muscle cars being parked at the funeral, a barista attending or even Mr Whippy turning up, because Grandad always bought the grandkids Mr Whippy.”

One of the ways to make sure your funeral is just as you would like it, is to preplan it yourself.

“If you think how much planning goes into weddings, which is the other big ceremony in most people’s lives, it’s strange that funerals tend to be treated as an afterthought,” says Gavin.

Funerals homes such as Gee & Hickton use a simple form where people can record their wishes for their own ceremony. “It costs nothing, and we find that having all that information written down is really helpful for the family at a difficult time. Besides, it ensures that the proceedings follow the wishes of the person at the centre of it.”

It’s not only people nearing the end of life that get to have their say – one of the positive developments Gavin has noticed in recent years is that grandchildren are much more involved in funerals now.

“When I started in the 1990s, it was not uncommon for grandchildren to be completely excluded from the funeral, not even being allowed to attend. But these days the whole family gets involved. We even get requests for plain caskets, so that the grandchildren can draw all over it, or teenagers who create a video or slideshow to play at Granny or Grandad’s funeral.”

As with every aspect of modern life, technology has become part of many funerals. Playing recorded music and showing video loops is almost expected. It is not unusual to have services streamed on the internet to family in faraway places either.

All these developments are part of a general movement away from solemn, traditional funeral services to more of a celebration of the life that has passed.

“Of course, if someone wants a traditional church funeral, they can still do that,” says Gavin. “It’s just a matter of making sure your family know what you prefer.”

* For more information, visit www.geeandhickton.co.nz or call 04 566 3103.