The Friendly Funeralista

I picked up this article courtesy of the Coach Broker News out of the United Kingdom.  The idea of a funeral bus is not new.  In fact, they have been used in large metropolitan centres, like New York City,  for a number of years.  Unfortunately, they have not really captured the interest of most funeral homes and their client families.  I live not far from a little village that is popular for weddings.  On Saturdays, this hamlet is bursting with wedding buses.   With traffic becoming ever more challenging I think the time might be right to follow the lead of the wedding industry and bring back the funeral bus. 

Here are some advantages: 

  • environmentally friendly, as fewer vehicles travel in procession to the cemetery or crematorium
  • allows a large number of family and friends to travel together (people will not get lost or fall behind)
  • it might present a good opportunity for a tribute video or eulogy to be played/given while on board
  • refreshments could be made available

I’m not sure about a red double-decker … maybe something a little more subtle like a charcoal grey coach bus would be in order? 

Here’s the article:

Nottingham Undertakers offer double-decker bus for funeral hire

25/01/2011 By Tracy Wilcox

A funeral directors company based in Nottingham has launched an alternative mode of transport to the traditional hearse which is proving extremely popular.

The funeral firm have purchased a red double-decker bus which is available to hire for those who would like an alternative vehicle to the usual hearse.

One of the main advantages of the double-decker bus funeral vehicle is that the family can travel onboard the vehicle along with the coffin, which is a great comfort for some people.

Lymn Undertakers in Nottingham say their quirky funeral vehicle is proving extremely popular with clients in the area with the firm providing the double-decker bus for between 2-3 funerals a week.

The undertakers say they like to offer their clients the freedom to choose a funeral that suits their personal wishes, and which at the same time, preserves the memory of their loved one. Mr Lymn Rose from the funeral directors says his company always attempts to deliver a final send off which is tailored to their client’s wishes.

Last year we reported on the story of a 45-year-old woman from Sutton Coldfield who instructed her family to arrange a red London bus to transport her to her funeral before she sadly passed away. One of her main reasons for wanting a bus for her final journey was so she could travel with her loved ones.

If the demand for funeral buses continues, we could see more double-decker funeral vehicles on UK roads in the future.

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The City of Toronto came to a standstill yesterday for the funeral of  Sergeant Ryan Russell, a beloved member of the Toronto Police Service.  Sergeant Russell was killed on January 12, 2010 by a man driving a stolen snowplow.  The driver of the snowplow was apprehended and charged with first degree murder.  Ryan Russell leaves behind his wife, Christine, their 2-year-old son, Nolan, his parents, Glenn and Lynda, and his sister, Tracy.  

The full honours police funeral procession included officers on horseback, The Toronto Police Pipe and Drum Band, a shrouded police cruiser, and 12,000 police personnel from the Toronto Police Service and other police services from all over North America marching on foot.  In the first video you will see that the Toronto Fire Service has provided a canopy for the procession as it makes its way through Toronto’s financial district.  The second video provides footage from the entire procession.  Torontonians, although perceived by much of Canada to be a heartless lot, came out in droves to honour this fallen officer and to bear witness to the human cost of public safety. 

On a personal note, I was pleased to hear that colleagues at the Jerrett Funeral Home were looking after the Russell family.  Funerals for fallen officers involve much pomp and ceremony and high levels of protocol.  Sometimes the family can get lost in all these big plans.  The Jerrett directors clearly remembered that their first responsibility was the grieving family and advocated as necessary to ensure that the wishes of the family were honoured.  Yesterday’s funeral had a good balance of tributes for Ryan the husband, dad, son and friend, and Sergeant Russell, the fallen officer.    It  looked to me like both families, the Russell’s and the Toronto Police Services, were well served.

Good advice from a kindergartner

Highway of Heroes

With Remembrance Day approaching, I wanted to talk about the Highway of Heroes.

Here’s the clinical definition:  

The Highway of Heroes is a designated route used to transport the bodies of dead Canadian soldiers from the Canadian airforce base in Trenton, Ontario to the Coroner’s Office in downtown Toronto.  Once in Toronto, a forensic examination is conducted after which the body is returned home for funeral services.   All soldiers killed in action are required to be examined by the coroner in Toronto and as a result will travel the Highway of Heroes.  

Here’s the important stuff:

Upon arrival at Trenton airforce base, the family of the soldier will join with a party of Canadian dignitaries to receive the casket from the aircraft.  Together this small group will participate in a short service of remembrance.  The family will then be escorted to a limousine(s) and together with the funeral coach carrying their loved one they  will travel for 90 minutes to Toronto.  Unlike the ceremonies that take place on the tarmac, the procession along the Highway of Heroes is public.  The cortege is accompanied by a police escort and the route is cleared to allow for the procession to proceed unencumbered.  Along the way the family will be supported by hundreds and thousands of Canadians who come out in droves to stand on guard, to share the grief, to take responsibility, to bear witness, and to offer thanks for this ultimate sacrifice.  Here in Canada the death of one of our soldiers is taken very personally.  

Here is a Highway of Heroes tribute for you to watch.  Lest we forget.

Well friends, November marks the beginning of the cold and flu season.  Here in Toronto, we can look forward to hearing commercial messages from the Buckley family, manufacturers of the best remedy for coughs, colds, sneezes, and sore throats,  Buckley’s Mixture.  Several times a day Mr. Frank Buckley will come over the airways to tell me about his family’s elixir that “tastes awful … and … works”.    Frank’s funny “cut to the chase” message has me laughing while nodding my head in agreement.  Let’s face it, many of the things in life that “work” actually “taste awful”.  Take for example, tough love or  vaccinations or working out at the gym — these are all examples of rather unpleasant things that produce enormous benefits.  Funerals fall into this category, too.  I think it’s safe to say that nobody enjoys going to a funeral.  However, once you finally get there you might be surprised to find that they actually “work”.  Work???????  By work, I mean that funerals have a healing effect.  They provide us an opportunity to honour the deceased and their family, they remind us how precious life really is, they give us an opportunity to meet up with long-lost friends, and might give us an excuse to bury the hatchet and start over.  Poet, author and funeral director Thomas Lynch writes that funerals work because “the dead matter to the living. In accompanying the dead, getting them where they need to go, we get where we need to be …”   While most people would agree that funerals, like Buckley’s, taste awful, I would hazard to guess that most come home after a funeral and agree that they “work”.

For you, Howard …

I was speaking with a business colleague the other day explaining that funeral directors use some confusing terms.  Case in point … I asked him what he thought the term “Funeral Coach” referred to.  He thought I was talking about a person, rather than a thing.  A funeral coach, is a fancy term for a hearse.  Thought you might like to see a few examples:

Typical current day example used in Canada/US

 

Motorcycle hearse

 

Bike hearse from Sunset Hills Cemetery, Eugene, Oregon

 

Japanese hearse

 

Horse drawn funeral coach

I think there is still much confusion in the marketplace generally about green products and services.  In fact, it seems that consumers themselves can be segmented into different “shades of green” when making buying decisions.   With that said, I’ll give you a touch of green information as it pertains to funerals so you can see what’s available.

Casket

Biodegradable caskets are now widely available for purchase.  These caskets do not contain metal or varnishes that would pose a hazard to the environment.  Here is a link for more information: www.northerncasket.com

Preparation of the Deceased

The first thing to know is that embalming is not a requirement.  The deceased may be placed in a casket or container without any formal preparations.  Should the family wish to have the embalming procedure performed, there are various preservative products available to suit the shade of green acceptable to the family and the condition of the remains.

Burial

There are natural burial grounds being established all over the world.  Natural burial grounds do not allow monuments or markers to be placed to mark the grave.  Often, they look like open fields, as grounds keeping is not consistent with the green philosophy.  Graves are dug by hand.  Families are given GPS coordinates to locate the grave.  Here is a link for more information: www.naturalburialassoc.ca

Cremation

Traditional cremation by fire is not in keeping with the green philosophy.  A new technology, Resomation, is a form of biocremation that is environmentally friendly.  This process uses a water based solution, rather than fire, to reduce the body to ash.  Here is a link for more information: www.transitionscience.com

As a final thought …

“May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows you’re dead”

(nobody says it like the Irish!)

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