Faith Focus: Helping people to mourn

Peter Crumpler

Peter Crumpler - Credit: Archant

No one likes to talk about death. Especially during a pandemic that’s impacting everyone on the planet.

And yet for some people, death is their life’s work. It’s their vocation.

In fact, helping bereaved families and friends say a personal goodbye to their loved ones is what motivates them, day after day.

They are the funeral directors and the staffs of the local crematoria and cemeteries. Often forgotten or out of mind, the men and women who arrange and service funerals in St Albans, Harpenden and across the country perform a vital role.

Vicars, ministers of religion and other funeral celebrants work closely with these key workers. We see the care they take to ensure families get the funerals they want for their loved ones. We see the strict health regulations they have had to follow during this pandemic and the increased pressures on them.

After one funeral, an undertaker confided to me how useless he felt while NHS staff were at the frontline of fighting coronavirus. I replied that what he did was essential too, and massively important during these difficult days.

Another undertaker told me how he helped families cope with the restrictions on the numbers of mourners at funerals, currently set at 30. He had slowly driven his hearse past golf clubs, pubs and old people’s homes where friends – unable to attend the services – had said their goodbyes.

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In the funerals I have taken during the pandemic, I have been much impressed by the care and sensitivity shown by funeral directors and crematorium staff. Often, while they have been under much stress themselves.

As a Christian minister, I want to bring a message of hope at funerals. I like to say that love never dies, and that the love we have for someone goes on beyond the grave.

Christians believe that when we die, God promises that we will be with the Almighty in a place where death and pain are forever gone. That one day we will see that person again.

Meanwhile, it’s the care of undertakers and all those who arrange and conduct funerals that help us say our goodbyes.

Rev Peter Crumpler is associate minister at St Paul’s Church, Fleetville, St Albans.