The evolution of how we pay tribute to those we have lost

Changes in the way we celebrate a life well lived means planning a service for a loved one can be a multi-generational approach and not just left to be the responsibility of one or two family members.

And funeral services can be delivered somewhat differently to what they were decades ago, with multimedia technology and online access meaning the experience is not just for those who are able to make it to the service in person.

Chris Quinn, from FW Barnes & Sons Funeral Directors – a company with more than 100 years of history in the industry – shares some of the changes that have occurred over the decades and explains how funeral services have evolved.

“Technology in general has provided a wonderful level of contact that we previously didn’t have,” said Chris.

“Mobile phones, Skype calls, video conferencing and streaming services all provide contact with people who were previously excluded by distance or location and we have had several services that we have been able to share with family members in places like England and New Zealand.”

Today, the ability for funeral centres to incorporate moving tributes which involve the screening of still images, home movies and video clips with music also mean that many services bring personality to the moment and provide a more engaging experience that today’s funeral attendee is looking for.

“This technology was simply not there 30 or 40 years ago,” said Chris.

“Truly it’s a gift to work with a family’s old photographs, slides and videos to be able to build a tribute to be shared at a funeral service.  I still can’t believe we are able to make these things happen.

“We hardly ever had popular music when I began my career and in the few times that we did it was a big deal to get everyone involved to agree.”

More recently there have been shifts in the industry in the sort of person that arranges a funeral with children and grandchildren becoming invested in the process.

“Certainly in my time the elder members of the family made the funeral arrangements,” said Chris.

“Quite often, in smaller groups, it would be one or two people taking the leadership role and making decisions about what style of service might be held.  

“However, over the last five to 10 years we see larger groups of family members gathering together to all have some sort of input into what will happen.

“It can be a multi-generational experience. Children and grandchildren of the deceased are able to sow into the funeral experience. I often think this must help the grieving experience for the young – they can have a sense over ownership, if you like, into what is happening.”

The length of a service can vary wildly today but in general are believed to be longer than they were perhaps 30 years ago.

A short service was considered to be around 20 to 25  minutes and a longer service might have been an hour.

“Most of our funerals would now fall in the 40 minutes to one hour and 15 minutes mark and is either delivered by family and friends and/or the celebrant/minister.

“They are certainly more focused on a celebration or reflection of the life of the deceased. I think the larger part of a service today is dedicated to sharing the story of someone’s life.”

The delivering of eulogies has also taken a giant leap with a more modern format allowing for anecdotes, humour and personal memories as well as the traditional spiritual reflection.

“Eulogies are interesting things,” said Chris.

“In history really there was no eulogy. Rather, the minister of religion involved in the funeral service would share their memories and knowledge of the deceased.

“Given that as a society we are not as connected to church as we previously were then that personal knowledge being able to be given by the minister has gone.  

“These days we see family members and friends sharing memories of their loved one’s life.

“It has certainly lead to some interesting and often very funny moments.”

This story was sponsored by FW Barnes