Posts tagged: funeral dvd

By , March 20, 2012 12:07 am

This was written by Rachael Wallace but it could have been written word for word by me.

 

I first thought about taking pictures at funerals when a close friend died 11 years ago. I stood there watching everyone in their smart bright clothes (no one wanted to wear black – too dark, too final), taking in the beautiful flowers, the sentiments and eulogies expressed by friends and family, the glorious spring day with such vibrant colours reminding us of the life continuing outside the cemetery and her husband and sons – in a dream world that day – oblivious to what was going on around them. And I thought how, maybe, it would be good for them to be able to see the people who had turned out that day, from near and far, to show their love and support and pay their last respects.

How perhaps there would be small but important details that they would have missed, such as people’s accessories – special colours the deceased would have loved, the dressing of the church, the smiles on their faces at some of the memories, the respect and reverence from the funeral directors, the special moments and the love reflected all around by the ceremony itself and those attending it.

I knew that by taking photographs on such an occasion would mean breaking an enormous taboo, but I also knew in my heart, that it could be such a great comfort to the bereaved by choosing to have these precious last moments recorded that it would be worth doing. And so it has proved.

Those who have chosen to have my presence at their loved ones’ departure ceremony (and there are many reasons for their doing so) have been so delighted with the pictures that I have chosen and placed in their memory book that they have smiled, and hugged me and I have felt I have brought a little light into their dark times.

The photographs will also enable them to talk more easily to others about their loss as it is far simpler to start and continue a conversation around a book of photographs. In this way the taboo of talking about death is able to be broken down a little more. It isn’t easy. I am met with shock, and revulsion at times when I mention what I do but once I have explained the caring and respectful way in which I work, and how my work aids the bereaved, I have seen people change their mind. Most people think it an excellent idea and a comment I often hear is that they wish there had been someone like me around for their husband, parent, child’s commemorative service but that they felt too embarrassed to ask, or uncertain who to ask, or wanted someone with experience and couldn’t easily find them.

After a BBC radio interview with Anne Diamond I had several people call me to say how pleased they were to hear of the service I offer and was immediately booked by a wonderful gentleman for his wife’s funeral. It has been hard convincing those in the funeral industry of the demand for such a service, and I think it sad that there are still few out there who know it can be arranged, but I feel sure that before too long it will be a common thing on the list of requests offered when planning a funeral. I feel proud and honoured to be present at such personal occasions, and I know that the books I produce are of great comfort to people. And that, ultimately, is the service I am offering at a time of great need.

http://www.goodfuneralguide.co.uk/2011/11/why-funeral-photos-are-so-important/#comment-50991

She said: “When a person is grieving they do not notice what is going on around them and who is there because they are so busy on the day.
“By creating an album of photographs — a memory book — people can see all the people who turned up to wish their loved one farewell.
“It is helpful afterwards and is a nice focal point for people to think that the book is coming. Some people cry and some do not but it is amazing to sit with people and go through it. It is very healing.”
Mrs Wallace says her job at a funeral is to seem invisible.
“It is so important to be really discreet and sympathetic,” she said. “I creep around with my two cameras, trying not to make a noise and get in the way.
“I do not take photos during the prayers, or of people crying, and I try to look for a moment of happiness in the eulogies.
“I will do ‘open casket’ if requested and that does not bother me.

http://www.henleystandard.co.uk/news/news.php?id=1069109

 

 

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

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