When my mum died, there was a funeral attended by family and friends. There were hymns and prayers that she loved. We shared stories about her with the Minister so he could talk about her during the service. It was a celebration of a life well lived. It was lovely that so many people came. Not all funerals are like that.
On the same day the Tubblet started infants school, Rev T started work at his first church. His first task was accompanying Simon the Minister whilst he performed a Social Funeral. Social Funerals are done by councils when there isn't anyone else to do it.
George, the deceased, was a fifty-something Scottish man. He’d lived in the local homeless hostel for a time, before getting his own flat. He'd been found dead in his flat a few months after leaving the hostel.
The lady who ran the hostel and one of the other hostel residents came to the funeral. George also had a wife, daughter and a sister. The authorities hadn’t been able to find them in time.
George was, in an odd way, lucky. Most of the 200 social funerals in the UK are attended by no one apart from someone from the council, the undertakers and a Minister.
Social funerals just like any other, but without any mourners or frills. An estate car instead of a hearse. No flowers. No service apart from the prayers at the grave side or in the crematorium.
As a rite of passage, it's unfocused and rather strange. Many of the rituals to mark someone’s passing assume that others who knew them are present to perform them. For example, the throwing of earth onto the coffin.
It was one of the saddest occasions I’ve ever been part of. But also a privilege. Being part of something that's normally hidden as well as being there for George as he made his way from this life to the next. If you're the praying sort, please say one for George and others like him.