Every one of us has been or will eventually go to at least one funeral in our lives. They’re a touching and emotional memorial to the life of a loved one which often help us to grieve.
But not much is known about what happens during the preparation and lead-up to a funeral, leading to a number of inaccurate myths about the process.
One funeral home, Meadowvale Funeral Services in Redcar, North Yorkshire, has opened its doors to explain the profession in more detail.
Director Nate Andrews, 46, started the firm in 1998 and says he and his staff see themselves as ‘guardians of the dead’.
He discussed some of the most commonly heard misconceptions about the role, explaining: ‘People think that we do all kinds of things. The biggest myth is that we break people’s arms and legs to fit them into a coffin. But we wouldn’t even dream of it.
‘There is also no way on earth that we could muddle anyone up. Our system generates a funeral number, which is unique to each person.
‘They are given a wristband – the same thing as you would get if you went into hospital – which is handwritten by the staff, another thing we do that makes it more personal.’
Nate says attitudes towards death have changed over the years, adding that ‘the generation that planned for it’ has now gone – but that nobody really likes to talk about death.
But, as death is an unescapable part of life, he often opens his doors to relatives of loved ones so they can understand the process.
He said: ‘Would we put any of our relatives into a care home without looking at the room?
‘We welcome people to come inside if that makes the process easier for them. We encourage it – everyone is different.’
Meadowvale offers a variety of coffins, from those printed with sentimental images to ones with a chalkboard on top to allow loved ones to write messages – but every coffin includes a pillow, as ‘dignity should cost nothing’, Nate says.
He said: ‘We’re human. They are saying now that even monkeys have a death ritual. All people have to let go.
‘It’s about dignity, dignity, dignity. Think about the old people – the only people who have ever seen them compromised are their husbands or at birth.’
At the rear of Meadowvale lies the site’s ‘most sacred room’ – the state-of-the-art mortuary. The room features pressurised cabinets, where bodies are stored, and has a sign on the door reminding staff to ‘never take for granted’ the trust placed in them.
Nate wanted to show that, even in the venue’s most respectful room, there is still a ‘sense of normality’. Items in the room include a Google speaker so staff can play music, and a basket containing a range of products from hair rollers to shaving foam and razors for both men and women.
Throughout his career Nate has had a number of experiences, from excitable dogs to an unexpected encounter with a medium.
He said: ‘One time I was carrying a gentleman in a big casket. I was walking and my hand got trapped between a wall – it was ripping my hand up but I had to say nothing.
‘In another incident, a person had passed away during the night and I was trying to get the gentleman down the stairs – but with an Alsatian jumping onto my back.
‘Another time, I went to collect a lady, she was in the bedroom. There was a sense of calm about the place – and I spent time explaining [to her daughter] about what we do and how.
‘The daughter said “Your mum is behind you” and then detailed my mum to a t. That’s how we found out she was a medium.
‘She said she could smell my mum’s profession, she said she smelt a medical smell. And my mum was a nurse.
‘It gave me hairs on the back of my neck – and it actually upset me a bit. We had never met before.’