Talking about death is no longer taboo, or at least, not quite as taboo as it was. We've seen first hand how events such as Death Cafés and Death Awareness Week week have opened up the subject and given people a safe space in which to discuss end of life planning.
One of the skills you learn at music college as a student of singing is to suit your voice to the music, and that includes volume. Singing a song with piano is obviously different to singing an aria with orchestra, for example. However, it;'s only experience that teaches you the art of self-regulating and adjusting your voice to different spaces as well. And it's not always about the size of the space either.
Have you heard about TED talks? TED is a platform for ideas worth spreading, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began 1984 as a conference where technology, entertainment and design converged, TED today shares ideas from a broad spectrum — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages.
TED is owned by a nonprofit, nonpartisan foundation, and their agenda is to make great ideas accessible and spark conversation.
The talk I listed to recently certain does that. Judy MacDonald Johnston discusses 'preparing for a good end of life'. She herself recently helped two people prepare for and obtain the end of life they wanted.
Why not have a listen to the talk and have a browse around TED for other talks that may inspire you.
Losing someone we love, whether a family member, partner or close friend is undoubtedly the saddest time in our life. However, it's also the time that you need to find the time and energy to organise their funeral service.
First, check whether your loved one has set aside their own wishes or provisions in their will or other documents. They may have also left instructions online with specialist funeral planning websites. They may have even pre-planned their funeral with an associated savings plan, which can help reduce or eliminate all costs. It also assists you in understanding the type of funeral services they desired so that you can make an appropriate choice for them.
Here at Singers for Funerals, we love the trend towards personalised order of service booklets, complete with family pictures and poems. However, we have also noticed a problem with hymns words differing from what is printed in most hymns books, and sometimes complete rearrangements of verses, to the point where even the organist gets confused!
After some research we tracked down the problem to a few internet hymn lyrics websites, where the person transcribing the words must have been very distracted at the time as the results are a mess.
Funeral processions may not be the grand affairs they used to be, but they are still part of many funerals, as the coffin is conveyed from church to cemetery or crematorium. While the family will usually travel in funeral cars booked or provided by the funeral director, other mourners will be expected to make their own way in their own cars.
Arranging a funeral service can seem daunting for those who have never done it before, but funeral directors can be a great source of help and advice, especially on civil (non-religious) funeral services.
Most funeral directors will be happy to take on the organisation of a civil service, leaving you to invite friends and other members of your family to join you and help celebrate a life well lived.
The recent death of "Sopranos" actor James Gandolfini in Rome has highlighted the issue of what happens when someone dies whilst on holiday abroad.
In Gandolfini's case, the usual bureaucratic red tape formalities may be speeded up to bring his body back to New York within 10 days. However, when each country has its own rules, where can you find practical help when you need it most?
If you are a relative or friend of a UK citizen and with them when they die abroad, your first call should be to the British Consulate or British Embassy in that country. They will help with funeral arrangements, any inquests, registering the death and obtaining a Death Certificate.
If you're on a package holiday, tell your rep as soon as possible, so your tour operator can contact the Consulate for you.
Your second call should be to the deceased's travel insurers, who will in turn contact the funeral directors and make arrangements, including payments. Sadly, without insurance, you will be liable for all costs including repatriation, which can be very costly.
If you wish to bring the body home, the Consulate will put you in touch with an international funeral director who understands the requirements of preparing a body for transit. You will also need permission from the coroner in the country involved.
For more information, see:
Citizens Advice page on deaths abroad
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office also have a PDF leaflet on coping with death overseas
We've long been a fan of Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert.com, so we were delighted to discover his new guide to financial planning "Death happens - plan for it".
This checklist of twenty-one tips towards lessening the impact of your death is written in the website's usual straightforward and informal style, and range from getting a will sorted and sorting life insurance early, to the pros and cons of leaving your internet passwords behind.
As with all Martin Lewis' guides, there are simple explanations as to why each tip is useful/essential, and links to websites if you need them.
Number 6 is "Plan your funeral", a tip we would absolutely agree with. As the guide says, "Making a few quick decisions on your own funeral now can be a real help to your relatives after your death, and it needn't be drawn out."
And while we agree that a funeral can be MoneySaving, we'd only say please don't skimp on the music - we've seen first hand how this helps those who you leave behind to celebrate your life and remember you with a smile.
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