Illawarra Mercury

Most memorable funerals

Funerals are an opportunity for loved ones to say goodbye in meaningful ways. A dedicated funeral director can facilitate this. Photo: Shutterstock.

This is branded content for Hansen and Cole Funerals

The life of a funeral director is quite a profound affair. They're our main point of contact in the immediate aftermath of losing a loved one, and our guidance during some of the most difficult moments of our lives.

They also facilitate the grieving process by providing an opportunity for closure, in the form of a well-planned funeral.

To gain an insight, we asked funeral directors from Hansen and Cole Funerals about their most memorable service.

"Be prepared"

Funeral director, Ash Crow, spoke of the time he was engaged by a grandfather who had learned of his own terminal diagnosis. He lived by the scout motto 'be prepared', and wished to pre-arrange his own funeral.

"He requested that we have his family and friends write messages on his coffin, that his grandchildren be the pallbearers and that he be driven from the funeral in his own car, rather than a traditional hearse. He got to make his final journey in his beloved ute," said Mr Crow.

"He pre-recorded part of his eulogy and he started it off with 'Wow, I thought there would be more people here.' People thought that was classic."

"He designed a 'How well do you know me?' quiz on the back of the order of service booklet, and asked his friends and family to fill it out then put it in a slot he had drawn on the coffin. He wrote 'Whoever has the correct answers wins a prize'. That was his sense of humour."

"And finally, he organised for myself to deliver hand-written cards and flowers to his wife on the six and 12 month anniversaries of his death. It was a very profound experience," said Mr Crow.

Cultural understanding

Ray Leon, funeral director, spoke of the time he arranged a funeral for a Samoan teenager. The embalmer at Mr Leon's funeral home has an understanding of Samoan traditions, as he is Samoan himself, and a chief of his village.

"The young man's schoolmates performed the traditional Haka at the burial grounds. I drove the hearse through a guard of honour at his school, with the entire student population present, and I've never been in such a wave of human emotion before, an outpouring of respect."

"It was massively powerful, and the most memorable service I've been involved in," said Mr Leon.

Continuing traditions

Funeral director, Sue Wright, spoke of an experience she had while planning a funeral for a man who had lost his wife.

"She was vision impaired, but every afternoon she would make her husband a cup of tea and he would read her the newspaper. She passed away at home while he was at work one day and he never got to read her the newspaper." said Ms Wright.

"He was upset and angry about his loss when he came to me, but after a chat, he decided he did need to say goodbye. He hesitated to see her again, however, I explained he could sit in the room and speak with her without seeing her."

"I gave him privacy in the viewing room, and after a while I realised he was completing their daily ritual. He was sitting next to her coffin, with two cups of tea, reading her the newspaper. I knew he needed to finish his day that way. It was very special to watch," said Ms Wright.

"At the end of the day he came up and gave me a hug and said thank you. And I knew why - he got to finish his day the way he had done for so many years before."

Bette Davis' biggest fan

Ms Wright also remembers the time that she helped a man to pre-arrange his own funeral.

"He loved Bette Davis and all of her movies. He asked if it would be possible to have a black hearse, so we found a beautiful old vintage hearse," said Ms Wright.

"He wanted all of his friends to pall bear in hats and tails. We had a disco ball in the chapel for him, and a mini disco ball in the vintage hearse. We sprayed the coffin 'piano black', decorated it with white roses, and played disco music."

"We had quotes from Bette Davis in his order of service booklet and it was like a party. It was a celebration of his life," said Ms Wright.

"He was an amazing person, and what a privilege it was to spend that time with him, and be there when he was making his choices."

This is branded content for Hansen and Cole Funerals