SAIF President’s ponderings on pressure, preparation and personalisation

February 27, 2017   //   No Comments

30 years ago I sat my diploma in Funeral Directing and was lucky enough to pass on the first time of asking, unlike my driving test!

The reason for telling you this is that I recall the worries I had on each of these occasions, the pressure to pass and the need to pass well! Those who know me will be aware that I’m not lacking in confidence and, having been brought up by a Professional Footballer and a competitive swimmer, winning was very much part of my character. However throughout my schooling my only interest was in sport and my exams were certainly secondary. But when it came to sitting my diploma, for my ongoing career there was a need to pass. In those days it was a one off written test followed by an oral exam. I thought I would breeze through the oral test and struggle with the written, but it turned out to be the other way round.  I found that my powers of learning were actually pretty good and I was able to retain new found knowledge quite easily. And if my memory serves me right I passed with an 87% mark.

Funny how these things stick in your mind.

Now for the mock funeral arrangement. A super down to earth Yorkshireman who I worked under at the time named Cyril Turner (some people will remember Cyril) was helping me in preparation. I had been arranging funerals for about a year when I sat my exam and had a fairly relaxed way of arranging, which had no order or specific methods of procedure.  I always started with an open mind and simply followed the conversation, rarely asking questions as more often than not the answers I needed were provided during the conversation between myself and the client.  However I was advised that for the exam I needed to arrange in a particular methodical way and there were certain elements which had to be included, otherwise I would be marked down. I found this particularly difficult, especially when Cyril advised me that what I was doing was a far better way to arrange a funeral than the exam process. But I had to tow the party line!  I learned as best I could to follow an order and include costing each element of the funeral as we discussed each part.

The big day arrived and I sat the written exam in the morning, following which I was given a piece of paper with some basic information on, akin to a first call sheet. In the opening discussions I discovered that the deceased in question had died in Miami, USA, and I had to arrange a repatriation. Well as you can imagine, all my preparation went out of the window, and all my thoughts were on the process of returning someone back to the UK. The other limiting factor for me was that we were only allowed 45 to arrange the funeral in full, and I regularly take a couple of hours or more in normal circumstances. Anyway, the upshot was that I did pass but only by the skin of my teeth.

From that day to this I have never been one to follow what would be classed as mainstream. As Cyril had said, and I strongly believe, my way of arranging was and still is far more appropriate than that which had been taught to me. Every funeral is thankfully different, and every individual Funeral Director is different. Subsequently, it is absolutely right that each individual should personalise their process of arranging. There is no right or wrong way, there is just the way that works best for you and more importantly, for your clients.

Stick with the ways you feel are the right ways!

Paul Allcock