SAIF President: Dying Matters all year round

words: Jim Auld, SAIF National President

Since taking over as President, I’ve been busy – and on the road quite a bit. We had two very good regional meetings in the north and I am particularly grateful to J C Atkinson for their hospitality in hosting the meeting at their factory in Washington, Tyne and Wear. It was fascinating to see the logistics of their operation.

As I write this, I am on a train heading down to the South West to attend the regional meeting being hosted by another associate member, Musgrove Willows in Bridgwater. I have really enjoyed connecting with funeral directors at these meetings, so I encourage you to take the time to attend a meeting near you as they are a great way to develop personally and improve by participation.

On 15 May, I was invited to attend an event facilitated by Golden Charter in its capacity as a member of the Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief alliance (GLGDGG) in Edinburgh.

Richard Lyle MSP, Convener of the Cross Party Group on Funerals and Bereavement, opened the event to mark Good Death Week (Scotland’s equivalent to Dying Matters Week). Short talks followed from GLGDGG’s Robert Peacock, on the purpose of Good Death Week, and from Golden Charter’s Suzanne Grahame, on the role of funeral directors in promoting a good death in the community.

Scotland’s Inspector of Funeral Directors, Natalie McKail, was also present and there was a large turnout from a wide variety of service providers from hospices to crematoria as well as funeral directors. A number of those attending the reception joined a late afternoon tour of the Parliament buildings at Holyrood, but the overriding take-home of the event was the reception and the enthusiasm for the subject.

I have come to the conclusion Dying Matters and Good Death Week is not just for one week in the year, it is for whenever we can find the time to talk about it.

One thing I would say to someone in planning a good funeral is not to be too rigid in your requests. Allow them some flexibility. I recently looked after a family whose father had died a number of years ago. His wish was for no service and no one at it, the funeral director struggled to come to terms with this idea. Now, of course, we are seeing more and more unattended cremations, and when this particular family lost their mother it was not the unusual request it had been when their dad died.

I reassured them we would honour their mother’s wishes, but I could just tell the family was hurting in a way that made me think it was compounding the grieving process. Now they have decided to arrange a get-together with friends and remember and celebrate the life of not just their mum but their dad as well. I hope to see as many of you as possible at NFE in Stoneleigh. I know there will be plenty to see, but do drop by the SAIF stand and say hello – Brian Hart and his team from SAIFinsure will also be there.

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