I have been asked to present to Funeral Celebrants Association Australia about my work so I reached out to a client whose reason for wanting a funeral book surprised me when she told me in 2015: Margaret said her father had dementia and she wanted the book to help him understand that he had lost his wife.
Margaret gave me a very thoughtful and considered response when she replied last week which I quote in part below as it has given me a greater understanding of how important my work is:
When dad went into care, we used the funeral book as well as our other photo albums to help him to remember mum, if no one else. I think he found the funeral album good for a while, but one day he closed the book and didn’t want to see it again….I think for him it became more difficult to deal with memories as he became more confused.
While dad hasn’t looked at the book, I have. When mum died, we were all in shock. As mum’s primary carer, I went from nursing her at home to organizing her funeral in the space of a week. That shock stays with you…her death, dealing with the funeral parlour, talking to family, the priest and friends who wanted to know details. It doesn’t leave you any time to grieve. The day of the funeral passed in a blur andI then went home to continue caring for dad…who spent time at night looking for mum in the garden.
I have used the funeral book to connect and to remember that day, the people and the ceremony.
It allowed me to begin grieving for mum…although I don’t think that will really happen until dad has died, as I’m grieving for him while he is still alive. He disappears a little each day as this dreadful disease takes over. I am so very grateful for Carol suggesting you come to photo mum’s funeral, and even more grateful for the beautifully discrete and sincere way you captured the day, dad and our family.
I would not have been able to properly remember the day without your help.
I had always regarded my funeral books as important for three reasons.
Firstly, I think it is undignified to simply handover a USB stick of images to a family.
Secondly, I respect the effort and thought speakers put into their eulogies and it seems such a shame not to permanently preserve their efforts.
Thirdly, my books are tangible proof of death. I think our society’s sequestration of death ultimately negatively impacts on our joie de vivre, our spirit, so I regard my books, which are miniature permanent memorials, as a small attempt to counter the notion that death doesn’t exist and in so doing lift our spirits.
However, Margaret’s response made me understand funeral books also have an ongoing role as an aide to grieving for the loved ones.