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Funerals

Few people have had to organise a funeral.
Most find themselves on unfamiliar ground. Many find their thinking to be not as clear or organised as normal nor their soul quite as calm.
There will nearly always be some sense of struggle about it for a host of reasons, so this site has been designed to give you courage to get thinking and consider options before the big thump comes.

Bruce's Experience in Funerals

After playing organ for many Church-conducted funerals, and being married to the daughter of Funeral Directors, I entered the funeral service full-time in 1994 as a celebrant. Since then I have conducted over 2000 services, with added experience coming from a year or so when I worked as a funeral director. I assist any company or family that would like my services. From a still-birth to a centenarian with national honours, I have always striven to bring an appropriate comforting and accessible service whether in clubrooms, private homes, gardens, churches or purpose-built chapels.

Making Plans Ahead of Time

Many people under-estimate the reduction in clear-thinking power when grief cuts in. Shock has its own shape and can cut in even when a death was expected. Many people would be doing themselves a great favour by making some definite plans and preparations beforehand when they know a family death is imminent. This is so much better than having to drop everything and suddenly face what can be an overwhelming mix of issues questions decisions and pressure and sometimes the decisions are not straight-forward.

I think we would have more better funerals if families got onto it beforehand. Whilst some people facing death do not want to be drawn into any conversation about a funeral, others do want to express some ideas, make some kind of pre-arrangement with a funeral home, know certain things are sorted, and even meet with me while they are well enough to do so.

Pre-arrangement is about putting some plans in place. Pre-Payment is about having funds set aside in a recognised trust fund. I do not get involved in Pre-payments. But getting some kind of pre-arrangement thing happening - even to the point of my writing up a eulogy so the terminally ill person can vet it, this is worth thinking about.

Choosing Your Own Celebrant

Even ahead of time; this is a growing trend. It is not at all uncommon for me to pop into a café or shop and have someone say, "remember Bruce, I want you to do my service when the time comes."
If you have been to any funerals yourself, it may be that the strongest impressions and memories are not so much about the casket or flowers or music, but whether the celebrant did a worthy job. It is always satisfying to be invited back by a family 2,3,4 times over many years. Yes, the funeral director making the arrangement can recommend an appropriate celebrant, but as people become more exposed to funeral processes, they do often write down a name or ask for a business card.

Meeting The Potential Celebrant

This gives the family an opportunity to learn something of the funeral process before having to suddenly become committed to a certain course of action. Also, some terminally ill people like the idea of meeting the person who will conduct their service. To others this is bizarre. Some family like the idea of my meeting mum even though mum is in a rest home with Alzheimer's Disease. It is also of value to me the celebrant, to meet or at even talk to the person face to face. It does lift the whole funeral process and the reality of the issue out of the mysterious and unknown, and into the open. Definitely helpful.

Meeting The Potential Funeral Director

Anything worked out before-hand softens the journey later on. You can make a Pre-arrangement, a Pre-Payment, view their premises, and catch a feel for how the company operates. You will be surprised how easily many of the decisions can be made when you have a clear mind.

Celebrant's Fee

The fee for my services as celebrant is normally paid to me on the day by the funeral director and built into your account. A typical service with the amount of travel involved in Auckland requires somewhere between five and seven hours and up to 120 kilometres in the car. Quoting a fee on a website is fraught with issues, but as a guide, in August 2011 around $460 ( $400 plus Gst) was typical. This may but not automatically include before-death meetings and draft eulogy writing, nor does it necessarily include a subsequent service for interment of ashes or headstone unveiling. At my discretion, there may be a further fee.

Making Funeral Arrangements - Quick reference

When someone dies what are the first steps to take?
  • If the death is unexpected or unexplained, call the police.
  • If the death happened at home and was expected and the deceased has been under medical attention in the last month, call the doctor who has looked after him/her.
  • Once the police or doctor has attended, call the funeral director of your choice.
  • Make the decision early about cremation or burial. If your choice is for cremation, the doctor will need to complete a second document.

To know more, download Step by Step Through The Funeral Arrangements Process

Making the First Call

The information needed when you make your first call to the funeral directing company is something like this:
  • Name of the person who has died
  • Your name, relationship to the deceased and telephone contact numbers
  • Where the death occurred
  • Has the Doctor or the Police been contacted and have they attended?
  • Burial or cremation
  • When you would like the body removed
  • When you would like to meet to talk funeral options and arrangements
  • That you are engaging Bruce McGrail to be the Celebrant (if appropriate)
Ringing around funeral companies for prices is a tricky thing; until you know that all quotes include the same services you may not be comparing 'apples with apples'. By same services, I mean Basic Professional services fee including transfer/removal; embalming and sanitation charges; use of hearse for funeral service, and other fixed additional charges such as after-hours or weekend surcharges. Only if you ask these questions will you get a fair comparison of cost. Beyond that there are dozens of reasons why prices can vary.