Category: Funeral Photographer

Today arrives. Funeral day.

By , April 21, 2011 9:23 am

They touch her head when they hug her, rubbing her short cropped hair with their stubby men’s fingers.

They hug with such intimacy and emotion that I feel like an intruder, watching. Eventually they release their hold, pull apart and look each other straight in the eye, and repeat the embrace. It’s like they want to climb into her skin, with grief and love.

Talk about a transfer of energy! So powerful to witness.

With each friend and mateship embrace, I can see Ann’s back grow straighter, as if they are feeding her with their own strength.

It’s working, Ann’s face is red-eyed and tearful, but her smile is straight and genuine, her stance strong and hopeful, her body, ready for the next assault of emotions, whatever they may be.
~~~
I know her as Ann Marie. A couple of weeks ago she called me Pat. No, I corrected her, it’s Patty, now. I like to be called just Ann, she replied. So just Ann it was.

At the funeral, meeting her friends, they call her Annie, not Ann. It’s a friendly affectionate name, borne over three decades of card-playing, late night talks on the dark verandas, line-dancing evenings, and many, shared holidays.

Annie.

She smiles and grins with delight in their company. Old friendships are like our favourite jeans, we can slip them on and immediately feel at home where we belong. She belongs in these arms of company that surround her today. Thanks for being my friend Ann’s friend, your friend Annie’s mate.
~~~
Driving to the Nambour funeral, I pass country I haven’t driven through for years, not since the kids were little, and only then, some. Bli Bli castle, sitting proudly on the hill, boasting ‘Opera in the Castle” coming soon. It’s up for sale, looking for not only a buyer, but some loving. Low lying cane fields sit in puddles of rainwater; the country had had torrential downpours here overnight, and the cane looks tired and fed up.

Mentally I run my hand over the tops of the grass as I drive past, windows up, singing.
~~~
After introducing myself to Dean, the Funeral Director, we both enter the Chapel. Ann has requested I photograph Colin, and so I shall. There is to be a viewing before the Service but I want to film him now, quietly, by myself.

Dean removes the casket lid and places it upright, standing to one side.

Hello Colin, I say softly, and wait for Dean to leave us.

He lays there, a smile on his large ruddy face. He’s holding a photograph of a card with a smiling woman on it. I wonder if this is his Irish friend. I raise my camera, and begin.

Really, he could be sleeping. I could almost shake him awake, with a cheery you-hoo!

Click.

His hands. Click.

His face. Click.

His beautiful Funeral corsage of orange flowers: happy geraniums, thoughtful, elegant white lilies, sweet, dear little orange roses, sophisticated white orchids, and simple white daisies. Click.

An orange and black Go Tigers! Flag is placed on the casket, it’s his wish.

I place my white ceramic box of his favourite yellow roses near his casket. The card reads: To my dear friend Ann’s gentle man, Rest in Peace now. Be still, my Soul, Patty.
~~~
When I arrive at Ann’s home, I am greeted by the familiar faces of her good friends from the Hunter Valley. They have been staying with her for the past few days, I am so grateful to them, and very pleased for her.

Cups of tea, buttered hot cross buns, chat and phone calls. Eventually Ann comes out of the bedroom, after speaking to his only brother, about certain funeral arrangements. Her face is red and blotchy, and she throws her arms around me and sobs: I never would have thought I’d be asking you to do this for me Patty.

We both shed tears, but quickly compose ourselves. It’s all good. We are adults now, and we can do this, one step, one tissue, one song at a time.

To be continued…

When tomorrow comes…

By , April 19, 2011 12:35 pm

Tomorrow I am going to help my old school friend bury her husband.

After decades of pain and depression, he finally ended it all with a brand new white rope.

She found him.

She has asked me to bring my video camera to record the Service, as she explains: “Patty, I always remember you saying, that you might not want to view the images now, or even next week, but one day you will come to a place in your life where it might be good to view the funeral, and the DVD will be there, quietly waiting for you.”

So, tomorrow, I will help my old school friend bury her husband, who loved her, but depression and constant chronic pain won out.

Rest in Peace.

~~~

Today I am going to help my old school friend bury her husband. I’ll be the oldest friendship there to support her, and although her nursing friends and old bridesmaids will be there, although her small family consisting of her only brother and his wife and kids will be there, I will be the one with the oldest memories of her; memories of a single girl, a carefree, happy redheaded blue-eyed school girl, in the school hallway bent over laughing at my jokes.

We both travelled to Cooktown together in our senior year, keeping a watchful eye on the young boys as we were plunged into a series of small train tunnels, pitch black and groping hands, to emerge in the blinking daylight, slightly dishevelled with smug teenagers sitting opposite us, looking like butter wouldn’t melt in their mouth. It was a game and we played along, much fun.

Over the years we kept in loose touch. If I was staying in the Hunter Valley helping my old wine-maker friend Jim Roberts pick his grapes, I would stay with her and her husband.

Her husband was a soft, gentle man, a large man, a lumbering giant heaving an unworkable broken body around the best he could. In those days he drove a taxi, and could get around a little bit, but the passing years were unkind to him, and gradually depression began to taint his world and the shutters closed in.
~~~
Today my husband was showering early, and I heard him yelp from where I was in the kitchen. I called out: Are you alright? Darl? Are you ok? And with his silence my footsteps quickened to reach him.
He stood there, water droplets from the shower covering the paddocks of his back and shoulders. On Sunday he had spent most of the day changing over 45 fluorescent light tubes at his work, and one of the tubes had cut his finger deeply. It was this sore finger that had banged against the towel rail, and it had silenced him with sudden pain.

I gently took the white towel and slowly, tenderly, wiped his back, his legs, his chest. “There you go, the rest is up to you” I said, and left him to finish the job.

Some days marriage is like that, you have to be there and step forward.
~~~
“When you first told me what you did, I couldn’t understand it, I thought ‘A funeral photographer? What the hell?’ but now I totally get it.” We speak softly, the phone nuzzles into my neck, and I close my eyes and imagine we are once again sitting in the spa we shared only weeks ago. “I want you to photograph him, and film the funeral, in fact I want to take the DVD over to Ireland and share it with his old friend. She can’t make it over for the funeral. I’ll take it to her.”

Already in her mind, she is moving forward, seeing a fresh day, a new start, a different tomorrow.

A fortnight ago we stayed at O’Reilly’s in the Gold Coast hinterland, the four of us women coming together in solidarity of having some time to ourselves. I spoke to her about everything but her husband. She needed the break, and I made it clear that the topic was always there if she needed to, wanted to speak about him; I was all ears and arms; to wrap around her. We watched an opera DVD, Cecilia Botoli. Eventually, she leaps to her feet, and begins to move to the music.

This is the first time I ever lined-danced to opera she says. I try to keep up with her steps, but it’s not for me, the set routine and boredom of repeating movements. I lash out and wobble my bits in joy, dancing for a moment in the rainforest. We laugh and giggle, like the old schoolgirls we still are.

Neither of us then imagined that we would be arranging his funeral. My friend is my old schoolgirl mate, childless, now widowed. She’ll rise above this, and move forward, and I’ll be there to help if I am needed.

If I knew then what I know now…funeral client says thanks

By , November 15, 2010 9:45 am

I had a phone call late on Sunday afternoon.  I nearly didn’t take the call, as I was half asleep and the mobile was upstairs, but I bounded up to grab it before the caller hung up.  It was from Susan, the daughter of my late dad’s old regimental army buddy Dennis.  I photographed his funeral for her 18 months ago, creating a DVD to watch if and when she felt up to it, and also creating a photographic book for her family to keep.

At the time of Dennis’ funeral, Susan was a little distant; (perfectly understandable, funerals are very stressful) and although she wrote me a lovely note at the time, I felt that she didn’t have any intention of looking at the book, or the DVD.  That’s ok, we all come to things at different times.  She may have never wanted to look at either, but if she changes her mind, it’s always there for her, quietly waiting.  I am archiving her family history.

Anyway, she told me that “the whole idea of you photographing my father’s funeral didn’t sit well with her at the time, but now that 18 months have passed, she now looks at the album each week.” 

I love to look at the album, thankyou so much Patty.

“If I knew then what I know now, it would be so different” and then she went to apologise to me for being a bit stand offish to me at the time.  I’m a little used to this, I know I am the devil’s advocate sometimes, as I am sure some members of the families think “why would we want images of this?  Why do we want to remember a most painful day of our life? Why take photos at a funeral?”

Obviously I am at a certain funeral because other members of the family do want me there, and so I try to become invisible, not intrude on their grief, not to cry myself (but some days I do wipe a soft tear away, I am human too) and I always have to capture all the special moments of each Service.  The heads bowed in respect, the Poppy Tributes, the signing of the Condolences Book and so on. 

A long life well lived is a sad funeral, but not necessarily a tragic one. The family usually gather and regroup, and honour their darling beloved one, and share his wonderful life.  I love funerals like this, and I love to learn new things about someone I though I knew…for example Dennis was a great dancer, and loved to have friends around each weekend, pushing the lounge room furniture to one side, covering the floor with pops, and spending a few dreamy hours waltzing their wives around, arm in arm.  Such a beautiful memory.

Anyway, Susan tells me on my phone that she “loves to look at the album” and appreciated my taking photos of ‘the old RSL men, and the reunion buddies”.  I am so thrilled with her call I can only smile and thank her.

She tells me she hesitated in ringing me, but thought that she should, as she and her whole family just love the album so much, and really value it now.  From what I gather, they haven’t yet watched the DVD, but that’s ok, each to their own, and in time, who knows?  It’s there for them, when they are ready. 

I hang up and feel validated, and valued.  Thanks Susan for your call, it made my day.  I am so happy and pleased my work gives you and your family pleasure and memories.

~~~

I wrote about meeting Dennis here: Meeting Dennis

About me

By , July 30, 2010 12:37 pm

I did a Masterclass on YouTube the other day and I began by telling the class a little of my background, and it felt strange to hear my voice saying all the things I did (left out half of it, lol) – I recall thinking, ‘blimey, have I really done all of that?’

So here’s a little of my background.

Ran my own restaurant aged 18 – 20; did all the shopping, cooking, serving etc. I would make a huge batch of beef curry in the afternoon for tomorrow, and meanwhile do the set-up for the nights trade, glasses, cutlery, fresh tablecloths and so on, then close the shop, dash home to shower and change, and come back and waitress and serve. Busy days, loved it and it taught me the value of following through, doing one job from go to whoa.

I tried to buy it outright from the always absent owners but at 18 I looked 12, and the bank manager wasn’t going to loan me any money, even with my father sitting beside me. Thanks dad for your support and belief in me.

Then I moved to NSW and Taree, where I worked in a Greek café for a couple of years, learning to make coffees and deal with bus coaches and people management. (Just before I arrived, the Woolworth’s Bomber blew up the local supermarket in Taree. It turned out to be my old boss Greg, who owned the restaurant in Rockhampton, bizarre! He was jailed.)

The boss wouldn’t give me a day off for my 21st, so I also learnt that even though you can work your heart out, reward and appreciation doesn’t necessarily follow. After that a brief stint in Waltons selling crappy typewriters to students, and LED watches that continually broke. I was embarrassed to sell junk rubbish like that, and learnt to deal in quality as it repays you time and again. No, that’s wasn’t a watch pun, but cheers for asking, lol.

After a while I read about a job vacancy in the Manning River Times, and so I went in on a Melbourne Cup day for my interview. It was 2pm. I rang first, to say “uh, you DO realise it’s Melbourne Cup Day, and the race will be on?” I was told to come on in anyway, regardless of the race, or the Cup. I learnt that not everyone shares the same interests as me, and that things I hold important aren’t necessarily so for others. We all have different priorities. I became the first female to be employed by the paper as an Advertising Representative. John Doust was my boss, and I grew to adore him, and his gruff, kind ways. We both shared a wicked sense of humour and used to love to play tricks on each other, good times. I looked on him as a father figure, and he will always be a top man in my books. Thanks JD. I worked there for nearly 4 years, looking after my clients and taking home marketing books to read over the weekend, arriving fresh Monday morning bursting with ideas and inspiration. I loved my little 2nd storey flat overlooking the glorious manning River, squeezed behind the shops and pub.

Taree was then blessed with 3 pubs and then the 4th would be built in bushland, but I would usually go to the middle pub whose name I have forgotten. The Exchange? It doesn’t matter, but I would sit in the small cocktail bar no one ever used; it was private and a touch above the beer swill out the back. Over time other friends would join me there, and we built up a small group of mates. I called the bar The Wankers Bar, and Jeff the publican made a sign for me, and hung it proudly over the counter. We even had an opening, and for once, I was on the other side of the counter. He gave me a huge farewell, we could barely fit into the tiny space, and they bought me a briefcase as a farewell gift.

At a conference I met some blokes from The Land Newspaper, and soon afterwards I began working for The Land, based in Dubbo. In those days I drove my little Suzuki 4wd, and I asked the comp boys to make me a sign: DUBBO OR BUST. I bought a large white teddy bear I named Patrick, so Patrick the bear and I set off on our adventure. I bought a map at the service station going out of town, as I had no idea where Dubbo even was, just somewhere vaguely west and south of Taree. Actually it’s almost a straight line west, and it took me 7 hours at 100km with a stiff wind behind me. I’d never seen such open space, the land yawned ahead of me.  I learnt to plan ahead, but on the other hand, some things just work out.  Don’t fret.

I’d miss the weekends when I’d ring my dear friend Merrilyn, and say “We’re going up the beach, wear your bra!” Some days we would drive all the way along the beach and arrive at Port Macquarie, buy some shoes, and drive home via the highway, stopping in at a pub to refresh ourselves.

We’d bounce and laugh and lurch along, and sing to Donna Summer; all the way up the rough bush tracks that ran parallel to the coast, before the tiny entrance, hidden by coastal heath bushes, revealed the glorious wild beaches north of Taree.

Crowdy Bay. Diamond Head.

Collecting sea urchins washed up by storms. Great stands of Banksia, standing proud above the bushland. White sands; patches of Christmas Bells and tiny Melaleuca flowers. Waving to lonely fisherman as we drove past, windows down, our hair tousled by the salty wind, flocks of seagulls rising and settling, leaving the soft echo of Donna Baby, and our chat and laughter.

I am constantly drawn back in my mind to those beaches. Our dear family friend Kylie Tenant wrote her book Man on a Headland, about that area. (She also wrote about our family, in Speak You So Gently). Only once did I think I was bogged on the sand. A rising tide, a setting sun, I had become too involved in looking at EVERYTHING and my little Suzuki, affectionately known as ‘The Eggbeater’ just sat there helplessly revving. No mobile phones in those days, and I began to panic. “You can’t bog a Suzuki! It’s impossible” I roused on myself, but I had simply knocked the gear out and it was sitting in neutral. Whew. I drove home wiser and I learnt to check things before panicking.

Again, I was the first female to be employed at The Land, as a travelling Rep. Often I would drive 500kms in a day, say from Dubbo to Parkes/Forbes, Bathurst and back to Dubbo, pulling into my driveway at 11pm, met by my lonely cat. I loved working for such an established newspaper, and enjoyed the whistles between the teeth by male dominated businesses (agricultural equipment, irrigation supplies etc) as I walked through the door.

My God! It’s a young woman!

I soon learned to wear gumboots as routine when my gorgeous light purple pumps were ruined in the mud at Orange National Field Days. I walked around in my ivory silk pants suit, and briefcase. *blush, yeah, I know, I know, you don’t have to laugh out loud. That night it snowed, (it was November) and I turned up for work the next day dressed in thick jumpers (new) and white short gum boots (new) and a clipboard. Much better! I learnt to walk in my own shoes and bugger what other people thought.

After a year of Dubbo, The Land transferred me to live in Newcastle, doing the coastal strip of repping, down to and including Sydney. In those days they had just moved to Windsor, so I learnt to take short cuts to Wiseman’s Ferry, and it was just another hurdle and adventure to be had.

I enjoyed living in Newcastle in my 2 storey terrace, and began to churn out poetry with a passion. Each afternoon I would push away from my desk and drive all along the beaches, from Nobby’s and then south, right down until it would be time to stop watching the waves and the setting sun, and go home to cook dinner for one. I would often visit the art gallery in my suburb of Cook’s Hill, sitting on the long bench in front of the Brett Whitley painting I so adored. On weekends I would drive to the Hunter – having first been there as a 20 yo.

I began to know the wine makers, and they knew and liked me too, often sharing with me their special bottles and ‘good gear’. The public never saw these bottles. I had a great collection! It always helped when I said I worked for The Land, as it was known as the Farmer’s Bible, then, and still is today. Years later Jim Roberts, from Bellbourie Winery (now closed) rang me when I lived in Toowoomba. “Patty, I’m dying, can you come?”

We cried together on the phone. He said: I don’t even know why I’m ringing you; you are the same age as my daughter. But I knew. We were connected.
We sobbed again, together.

I jumped on the overnight bus straight away, and helped Jim and his grown family pick a late harvest of Madeira grapes. We bottled and labelled it that day, laughing and calling it “Mad Era” as it was a crazy time: with Harley’s Comet overhead; as we helplessly watched our beloved Jim become frail from cancer. I still have 2 bottles Jim, plus the port bottle I had a cartoonist design for you, remember? They are safe with me. Rest old boy. All is well. Although Jim was very clear what he wanted for his funeral, it didn’t happen, and I learnt that you need to respect people’s wishes, even if you don’t agree with them. Jim, your jazz band and wine appreciation soirée didn’t happen. Sorry mate.

So anyway, I am driving up and down to Sydney, and Port Macquarie, and all points in between, having to drive twice back to Dubbo to train my replacement. It took me 7 hours each way, and I would sing to the Little River Band. Sing loud! I cannot imagine a life without music.

After another year of this, The Land placed me in Qld, to be the first Qld Sales manager, also repping for Qld Country Life, based in Toowoomba. At least I was closer to my parents and family! I rented a dear little 1 br round house at Murphy’s Creek, (below the range) on 5 acres; and bought myself chooks, a rooster, geese and a naughty cocker spaniel puppy; to keep my cat company. Each day I would feed the magpies and chooks; at night I would feed five possums and the owls who would gather to swoop on the insects and moths attracted by my outside lights. God I loved that house.

I filled a book with my poetry.

I began a media club with 500 members. I called it RAPT, Radio, Advertising, Press and Television. Toowoomba has one of the highest percentages of media around, with both local and capital city television stations. I published regular newsletters and we met monthly. It folded after a boozy lunch with Waynee Poo Roberts who swore like a mad trooper, and annoyed a lot of people. I copped the blame for that, but how was I to know who he was? I learnt to stick up for myself, and also that no matter what you do for people, there will always be someone that begrudges you, and makes life difficult.

Fast forward to another year and by now I am living in Toowoomba; living in a share house perched on the rim of the range, driving in the fog, and becoming a little lonely. I began to read books on childbirth. One night my housemate named Scrubber (whose brother went on to write a best selling novel Praise) climbed through my bedroom window at 2am. What are you reading Snide? (My nickname then, long story) “Birth, and enemas” I replied, barely glancing at him. “Oh,” he said, and with that Scrubber stumbled off to his own room. I learnt that at a certain age, nothing surprises me anymore.

Another change was needed! I bummed a lift overnight in a semi with a friend of a friend, and applied to the Sydney Morning Herald as Advertising Rep. At this stage I had met my husband to be when I worked briefly at an Advertising Agency. I bought a block of land and began to plan my dream house, an A-frame. With chooks!

When the job was given to me at the Herald, I was completely torn. To stay, to go? I moved everything to Balmain (I was pretty skilled at packing by now, yeah) and shared a gorgeous terrace with a very un-gorgeous man who would drag women home, shout at them and bang them all night. Just saying. If only I were DEAF! He told me I wrote like James Joyce. I’d never heard of him, and still haven’t read him. Perhaps in my old age, when I find the time? I learnt that sometimes my company is the best company to have.

After I while I questioned what the heck I was doing down there, so moved again (!) back to Brisbane to live with my now husband Chris. He was a rep too, for Holden, so I would drive him to the airport each Monday morning, and collect him Friday afternoons. I spent all day each week by myself, and by now, I was pregnant, so I needed a birth centre. Enter Boothville Mother’s Hospital. I delivered our first son here, and I was totally shocked at the wonder of him. I felt like I had robbed the whole world of its beauty, and placed them all within his dear little face. Even writing that sentence can make my weep with joy at the memory. Never underestimate birth mothers, haha.

In two years time I would be organising a rally of 500 women and families, to protest against it’s closure by the Salvation Army. The Sunday Sun came to photograph me with my toddler son, and I boastfully threatened to “push this pram to Sydney if I have to, to keep the doors open for birth mothers and their families.” When this was reported in the paper the next day, I turned to my husband and said “do I have to walk to Sydney now?” He assured me that he would be my backup vehicle, but it never happened, thank goodness, but we did keep the doors open for another 5 years. It was at this time I was fortunate enough to meet some dear friends who have stuck by me through thick and thin, and together we 3 girls coped with pregnancy, birth, miscarriage, breastfeeding and so on. Meeting after meeting, press calls, marketing plans, billboards, radio interviews, speaking engagements harnessing the power of women and families.

During this time we all sat on the hospital board as consumers, and I would often pinch myself as the Minutes would be handed out, or I would field a call from the Medical writer from the Courier Mail. How did I get to here? Sitting on a Private Hospital board? I did all the marketing, flying down on a jump-seat with Ansett to present a marketing plan to the Salvation Army in Sydney. I was 30 weeks pregnant. My friend CJ did all the girly stuff, the cake stalls, the networking. Fiona did all the accounts and books, she kept us in the red, and we were busy, busy. Four pregnancies. Three Births. Two sons. My joy, my life, my amazing sons.

I learnt if you truly believed in something, then get out and fight for it. Be passionate. Never be ashamed to stand up and be counted. Things matter! Become involved in your community and reward and Blessings will follow you.

During this time, to amuse myself from the day-to-day grind of saving Boothville, I began to ring the radio station and enter competitions and so on. Everyone talked, so I thought ‘I’ll sing!’ and so I would create songs and make up lyrics on the spot. I did this for nearly 2 years, until one night Chris came home and announced he had dobbed me in to be a guest announcer on 4QR Abc Radio, (now 612 Brisbane) at the football in Lang Park. I immediately applied with a pounding heart, (I am a radio girl, as well as newspapers, spent my entire teenage years chatting to the DJ’s between songs each weekend, loved it) and to cut a long story short, found myself at my first ever football match with Gerry Collins and Chris Avenel. Gerry and I remembered each other from the Dubbo newspaper days, so it was a relaxing night and very different for me. I had no idea what I was doing, but it had never stopped me before. I learnt to go with the flow, and hang on for dear life. What a ride!

The following week I was in the radio studios and bumped into Peter Dick. We chatted and he asked me about 100 questions, and offered me the job of Roving Reporter, the first for any ABC Radio station in Australia. We broke almost every rule, giving away tickets and petrol and prizes, and we rated our heads off. What great days.

I was the public face of Breakfast for that station for 4 ½ years and moved on after a series of bizarre muck ups with my pay and a change of direction with the Breakfast Show becoming a more serious show with current events. There was no room for bridge climbing, tandem parachuting or other ‘housewife adventures’. The best job I ever did was over, and I was over it, and so threw myself into my children’s’ school committees, becoming President of the P&C and installing one of the first web sites for schools. I did ask everyone I knew to design a website for us, but no one was game to take it on. “How hard can this be?” I thought, and so over a weekend and with a template, I created an 8 page website.

I think in those days there were only 3 or 4 schools on the net, and we were one of them. I had invited the Governor and his wife to help us ‘cut the cake’ for the school’s Foundation Day, and to launch our website. The three television stations all turned up with their cameras and reporters. I was in the administration office, sobbing, on the phone to Telstra, who were trying to get our site fpt’ed up onto the net. Giddy days, but I did it, we launched the site, and within a year I began webcasting our special school events with my webcam.

In order to learn what to do (it can’t be that hard, can it?) I began my own webcam site, with the intention to call it Magpie cam, as I fed my loyal and greedy magpies each day, but I soon changed my mind and then Pattycam.net was born!

I had Pattycam.net for 10 years, and if you click there now I understand it’s a porn site, so yeah. It’s amusing to me now to see people now embracing Twitter and Facebook, when I have had a decade of message boards, tagboards and so on with my own site. I dislike how judgmental people are, unfollowing others and blocking on a whim. Oh well. It’s a reflection of the society we now live in, where knockers and whingers complain endlessly and mock anyone and everything.

So now what do I do, how have I evolved? Now I am a *Funeral Photographer, and I design photo books and create DVD’S for 18th, 21st and 50ths and so on. I love it. The other day I gave a Masterclass on YouTube video creation. Go figure. Trying to teach in four hours what it’s taken me 10 years to learn, from the early days of creating my files and driving them on a disc to be transferred to video tapes. No one had a DVD then.

I want to pursue my writing and who knows what’s around the corner? Life is a wave and I’m riding the crest, I’m not one to be left in the wash and flotsam.

Our two beautiful, intelligent and thoughtful sons are pursuing their dreams and study. The house is once again empty, childhood seems like a dream. I am an Empty Nester, and as busy as I ever was. Each day is beginning; each night shuffles us towards our death. Life is grasped with both hands, gentle on the steering wheel, full steam ahead; relaxed thumbs.

At times I glance in the rear view mirror; you need to know where you have travelled from, in order to reach your new destination.

I don’t often know what I’m doing, but does anyone on the net? It’s a constantly changing thing. It’s another challenge to overcome and an opportunity to learn. The view is great!

Thanks for reading.

*When my father passed away, he was a much-loved big fish in a little sea in Rockhampton (and also a former Queenslander of the Year 1987, and a O.A.M. Recipient) and I wanted his funeral videoed for our family. I also took my own film camera (of course!) and my husband dutifully shot the various speakers and family members as they paid their tributes and delivered the Readings. I rang the Morning Bulletin newspaper, asking if they intended to send in a photographer.

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world Patty” they assured me, and so it was on that sad day in February, we adult children formed a straight sober line outside the Anglican Cathedral.

Grandchildren also joined us to present dad’s ‘Symbols of Life” which included things such as his diving helmet (already placed within the church) and his books, awards, pearl shell, Bible and so on.

I could see the photographer there waiting, and was pleased to see him raise the camera to his eye.

*snap. Got that image.

*snap, captured that image too.

I was very happy and relieved to have him there. The video bloke held his one position throughout the Service.

At the end of the Service we all gathered around the hearse to sing dad farewell and to give final Blessings. The photographer leaned in and photographed dad’s beautiful bright flowers. I sang loudly, as dad would have wished.

The next day I went in to the newspaper to ask for the images, but the chief photographer came out and told me that “someone thundered ‘How dare you photograph Father Warby’s’ funeral!’ and demanded that the images be erased.”

I was stunned and couldn’t speak for a long time, fighting to control my tears and emotions.

It was the early days of new-fangled digital cameras. Now I would have requested that he use digital retrieval software; but back then, the images once erased, they were gone.

I learnt that some people mean well, but actually stuff things right up! Some things cannot be left to chance, and knowing we can never recreate that special day, with the images gone forever. Thank goodness I had my husband’s images, and the video.

I thought “This is really important” and so it was that I became a Funeral Photographer. I have buried many family members, a brother, father, uncles and aunties and so on, so I too have walked the walk, that you now tread. My heart has also  ached with dull heaviness, and I do understand a little of how you feel.

Dad’s Funeral DVD sits in my drawer and it gives me great comfort knowing it’s always there for me. I hope my Funeral DVDs bring you much comfort as well.

{{embrace}}

 

 

NOTE: Please understand that this is a very quick, very simple explanation of my life, to show me more than anyone what I have learnt. If I haven’t mentioned you, or given you credit or honour, I apologise now, but please understand it’s just a very quick scribble, and I may come back and flesh out more details as they surface. I just can’t write 52 years of my life in 3 hours, sorry. Please don’t be offended.

What I have learnt, is that even when it’s all about me, it isn’t.

Meet Brisbane’s youngest Mortician

By , June 24, 2010 7:57 am

There are some jobs that many of us just couldn’t do – being a mortician is probably one of them. But what make a young person want to work with bodies?

Sarah used to work in cosmetics, but now she’s a mortician.

This is an interview by Madonna King, on 612 ABC Brisbane Radio.

Note that Sarah loves her job, and the passion and love that families show towards their Loved Ones at a funeral.

I totally understand, funerals are a beautiful expression of human empathy and compassion. Listen here: Brisbane’s youngest Mortician

Brisbane Funeral Photographer

By , June 15, 2010 1:34 pm


Free websiteWix.com

Funerals, a chance to confess and redeem?

By , February 27, 2010 9:30 am

This is an extract from Father Bob’s wonderful website:

There were even more at a funeral on the same day – about 400, in fact. A working class man, David, aged 40, had succumbed to life’s pressures.

He had been in care for some childhood years, one of 10 siblings, but had, miraculously, gotten a trade, married and raised 3 children. The family had a house of its own.

The other siblings had struggled and battled just to survive. We buried one other brother late last year. David’s siblings asked me to state at the funeral that he had succeeded in his main aim of giving his 3 children the security and opportunity he never had.

They also asked me to tell the 400 mourners “No-one is to feel guilt over David’s death.” It was like a public confession and absolution.

Funerals, I believe, need that element of forgiveness and reconciliation. Funerals are like Lent – opportunities for “cleaning house” and starting a “bran nue dae”.
As we left the church for the cemetery, another local man approached to say his own brother, Mark, also aged 40 had been found dead that day and I should be ready to make arrangements for that funeral of yet another man I’ve known to struggle since we met in 1973. Rest in peace comrades.

RJM

Glass Hearse

By , February 4, 2010 9:34 am

When I was a young teenager I saw a beautiful glass hearse in the Mt Morgan Museum, it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

I think I have always been attracted to the funeral industry, (not particularly death – I see that as the last final adventure) but the whole big picture of funerals.

Yesterday I was re-telling this story to Bruce Wadd, a Funeral Celebrant in Brisbane, and in todays email box these images arrived, from my American friend.

The bike is a Harley, what do you think? 🙂

Glass Harley Hearse

5 Things you need to think about when planning a Funeral

By , January 21, 2010 11:34 am

Today I would like to chat about some things that have been on my mind in regards to Funeral Services, and how to make them memorable. The actual planning is something most people don’t give a lot of time to, as they have little idea. Your Funeral Director can help make each occasion unique and special too, just ask.
So many times I attend Services and wonder what people take away with them. What are the standout moments people will nurture once home. Do they have a great sense of occasion? Is it memorable? Did the Service do a good job in honouring the deceased’s life and personality?

1. Music – This is a deeply personal choice, and there are many sites with suggestions for funeral music, so I won’t add anymore here. Please think about whether actually singing a song is more appropriate, and touching, rather than a Top Ten countdown of favourite tunes. When a community sings, there is a shared moment – a wonderful communal sense of being together, solidarity in grief. It can be deeply moving, and cathartic. There are also Funeral Singers who will sing at a funeral. Live music is very touching and personal.
2. Order of Service – Yes, an Order of Service may cost you a little more, but people like to know what’s happening within the Service, and what the relevance is to the Deceased. Sometimes there might be a display of their favourite things that represent their life. A fishing reel, a hat, a particular book and so on. Make sure you list these Symbols of Life in the Order of Service booklet. What about a bookmark to take away? Don’t forget to include a photograph, people love to hold onto this and remember the Loved One. Did they have a favourite poem or reading? Add it in too, it gives much comfort.
3. Photographs – Most Services these days have some sort of photographic display, but have you also considered having a Photographer there to archive the days in pictures? These images can then be used to create a DVD of the Service, or perhaps publish a book of Memories for the family.
4. Theme – If it’s a young person’s funeral, it can be very shocking and sad, especially if the death was unexpected. A colour theme can unite the young grievers together, and give them a sense of belonging; at a time when they are very lost. Recently I attended a funeral where everyone wore purple, and small purple ribbons on safety pins were also handed out. The whole image and theme was so beautiful, and memorable.
5. Sharing the Occasion – is there a way you can involve others in the Service? This helps not only share the burden but gives others a sense of ‘closure’ and a chance to also say goodbye. Soldiers have their Poppy Tribute, which is always beautiful to photograph, but you may also have a Candle Lighting, a parade of Symbols of Life (*see above) or perhaps Laying of Flowers on the coffin. Asking family members or friends to give Readings or recite a loved poem is always appreciated.

These highlights of a Funeral Service are the things that people will take away with them. Signposts that say “here was a wonderful life’ and mark a sense of occasion.

Remember that death is a part of life, and a journey we will all take one day.

The Funeral of Jess

By , January 18, 2010 8:00 pm

This was a lovely, very sad funeral for a beautiful young woman, who’s favourite colour was purple.

“Having watched Patty photograph at a funeral I can certainly recommend her style of work. She is bold yet non-intrusive, appropriately creative with her approach to capturing the memories of such an important event as a funeral in the life of a family. Then looking through her DVD post-production, I was impressed with the quality of the finished product. Patty is someone I would tell other people about, to use her services in capturing the memories of any special event!” February 14, 2010 Bruce Wadd, Celebrant

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