In June 2015, we received a relatively large amount of press attention around the subject of personalised coffins. In the past couple of years, we have seen a company advertise the idea of planning your own funeral on television and not just a “taking out a life insurance policy which will cover expenses” way either. The people shown in the advert are talking in a positive way about a celebration of their lives, with ideas for music and even entertainment.
During 2014, Coronation Street had a floral-designed coffin for popular character Hayley, causing an increased number of enquiries regarding bespoke coffins to our switchboard.
We not only offer an entire range of colourfully-designed coffins in association with two specialist suppliers but we also have a colour-matching service, which allows us to spray any coffin in our range with any colour paint required. These coffins take longer to polish but there is no denying that they make for a more eye-catching procession.
Some families take things a step further and ask their funeral director to order an unpolished coffin so they can decorate it themselves, or ask mourners to write messages on, with poignant results.
Given the trend for more diverse coffins, we thought we would bring you examples of the most unusual funerals we’ve heard of from around the world
1. Darth Vader and Beetlejuice among mourners at Hallowe’en-themed funeral
We recently noticed in the Guardian the story of the funeral of 56 year-old Lorna Johnson in Luton. Lorna was a big fan of Hallowe’en and celebrated the occasion with her family every year. Her son, Neil, decided to organise a send off for her where guests were encouraged to come in fancy dress. Music at the service included Dolly Parton’s I’m Gonna Miss You, some indie rock and a trance song towards the end. Although, the family admit it was an unusual event, they were confident it is what the fun-loving mother and grandmother would have been happy with.
2. Taxi driver gets last wish to be propped up in his own cab for his funeral
In May 2015, taxi driver Victor Perez Cardona made headlines when his dying wish was honoured. Mourners arriving at the funeral home were presented with Cardona, propped up with both hands on the wheel of the cab he had driven for 15 years. Apparently, Cardona had always loved a good joke but whether he knew he would find such a large audience for his work, as local crowds and press gathered to view him, is unclear. Whilst viewed as unusual here in the UK, appearing at your own funeral is not so uncommon in Puerto Rico, where a 23 year old boxer, an 80 year old bride and a young motorcyclist on his bike, have all been posed at their own funerals to bid final farewells.
3. Only Fools and Horses fan has ‘triffic’ funeral
In September 2014, a 30 year-old nurse and fan of the classic BBC sitcom was given a funeral with an ‘Only Fools and Horses’ theme, including an Only Fools and Horses Hearse. The family of John Smith were naturally devastated by the death of the son, brother and father but wanted to make the occasion one that he would have been proud of. Music from the show was picked for the service, in Halifax, and the vehicle chosen was a hearse attached to a matching yellow Reliant Robin. However, what also gave the day a ‘Del-boy’ feel, were the comedic glitches that occurred, as the CD of the theme-tune kept jumping and the exhaust fell of the Reliant Robin en-route.
4. Best Bowling Funeral Ever!
In December 2013, US TV show Best Funeral Ever covered the funeral of Judy Sunday in Dallas, TX, where Golden Gate Funeral Home’s staff organised a funeral at a bowling alley. After the officiant announced she was about to bowl her last ever strike, Sunday’s American-style casket was pushed down a bowling lane on castors towards pins decorated with the letters R-I-P-J-U-D-Y.
5. Hunter S. Thompson
The man credited with the creation of Gonzo journalism, and author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, is now almost as well known for his star-studded, explosive send off. His cremated remains were shot into the air by cannon, surrounded by a spectacular fireworks display and a sound track of Bob Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine Man and, appropriately enough, Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit in the Sky.
Among the 280 guests were stars likes Johnny Depp Jack Nicholson, John Cusack, Bill Murray, Benicio del Toro, Sean Penn, Josh Hartnett, Lyle Lovett, and John Oates.
While the funerals listed here are very different, the common factor is that all of the people making the arrangements were confident that they were creating something that their loved-ones would have approved of. That isn’t always an easy thing to do. A recent study showed over half of UK adults had never passed on their funeral wishes, whilst a fifth of respondents had been in the position of organising a funeral without knowing what the deceased would have chosen. Although we have only seen advertisements for funeral planning in the past few years, the concept is not a new one, nor is it a service that only a few companies can provide. Most high street funeral directors offer a service for people to pick and pay for their own funeral in advance, although many may struggle with the extreme examples listed above. Despite that, whether it’s music and coffin choice, or a favourite boozer for the wake, everyone has the opportunity to say goodbye with a little personality, or maybe put the ‘fun’ into ‘funeral’.