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Poppy's funerals - an inspiring place!

Today I visited Poppy's Funerals for their open day, part of the Festival of the Dead which is happening in Tooting this weekend. I didn't really know what to expect and I have to admit I was a little nervous when I realised that the talk was actually happening in their mortuary. However, I really needn't have been as everyone, staff and guests alike, were warm, friendly and very empathetic. So it turned out to be a lovely way to spend a Thursday afternoon!

Poppy's funerals are championing 'great death care', whilst also having a 'fresh approach'. They are very much steering away from the stereotype that more traditional funeral directors have, which is seen as somewhat Victorian, from the way they dress to the hushed way they talk about the dead. Just the other day, my sister and her friend saw a funeral procession going by and she said they both felt like the whole thing was "weird" and not because they were uncomfortable that a person had died and there they were, but because the whole thing looked odd to them, jarring, unnatural and strangely old fashioned. Now of course, they didn't know the person and perhaps this is exactly how that person's funeral should have been. When I was talking to her about it however, she said that she didn't think a funeral like that would suit her, which is exactly how I feel. I'm sure many other people feel the same! But my sister, and probably many others, didn't realise it could be any other way. So I definitely think that Poppy's modern, flexible and open approach already does and will continue to really resonate with people.

During the afternoon, visitors were welcomed to Poppy's funerals which is housed in a quaint gatehouse at the front of Lambeth Cemetery. Some of the other guests worked in funerals, but many of them were members of the public who simply wanted to visit, find out more about what really happens in a funeral home and see what Poppy's and their mission is all about. We were then shown to the mortuary, a beautiful chapel style building, where Poppy and her team talked to us about what they do and answered lots of interesting questions. At the heart of what they do is outstanding death care, which they feel should be the norm. They want to make sure that people are looked after when they die in a way that a person (not an object) deserves. They explained what embalming entails - a very invasive process that includes blood being pumped out and replaced with a chemical mixture of formaldehyde, pink dye and water - and said that most of the families and friends that they work with choose not to have this done once they know what it entails. Indeed, as I mentioned in my previous blog, it is in no way necessary to be embalmed (except if your person is going abroad) and people can be kept in mortuary refrigeration for longer than you might imagine without it.

One of the great things that Poppy's do is make space for time spent with your person in whatever way you'd like. For example, one family brought a cream tea to have with their person, others listen to music or read stories and Poppy's encourage this. And since the space where this happens is within the mortuary building, this means that no embalming needs to happen to take your person from place to place. Indeed, Poppy's Funerals' approach is very transparent and families and friends are invited to help with and be present for as much or as little care as they like. The founder, Poppy herself, said that it makes her feel comforted to know that outstanding death care is out there and that she will be looked after like this when she dies. I certainly do too!

So it really was a very informative, thoughtful and pleasant way to spend the afternoon and I highly recommend going to another of their talks.

I also think we should all talk more about what we want to happen to us when we die. One of the other visitors today told me that she keeps a file with all the things she thinks of for a funeral, which I think is absolutely great and I'll be starting my own imminently! The more we normalise talking about death and funerals, the better death care, funerals and celebrations of life become!


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