Virginia Barton

12 May 2017: O Death, where is thy sting?

12 May 2017: O Death, where is thy sting?


12 May 2017


Don’t you dare give me a “fun” funeral or put me in a “kooky” coffin or I swear I’ll haunt you.

This outraged opener is thanks to a piece I read in The Times on May 8th.

Do you ever get the feeling that you’ve seen and heard, smelled, tasted and felt everything? Well I do. This, however, threw me back on my heels. The headline read:

Fancy dress and kooky (what IS that?) coffins help put the fun into funerals.”



The Co-op, which arranges around 100,000 funerals a year, say an increasing number of adults prefer to celebrate a person’s life rather than have a serious, solemn affair. So “themed” funerals are the thing, with Batman, Robin or Darth Vader called upon to carry the “kooky” coffin to a hearse which can easily be a motorcycle sidecar. With music to match. Mourners may dress-up appropriately.

Are you shocked by this? Or do you save that emotion for pictures of famine, homelessness or pornography?

I suppose I am out of step with the vogue for trivialising what has hitherto been respected; the Royal Family, the Church, the judiciary, politicians. No doubt some of these august institutions deserve judicious criticism from time to time. And satire is fair play. But to rubbish them all, to reduce everything including death to “fun,” is dangerous.


Can fear be the driver? Trash it and it can’t hurt you. After all, this is the Post-Christian Era and it’s only spooky old death. Poke fun and reduce it to human-size and let’s have a party.

Dress: zombies, ghosts, skeletons.




  • Jack L says on: May 12, 2017 at 12:34 am


    Shocking? Yes. Surprising? Sadly, no. As you say, we are in the Post-Christian Era, and if you don’t have faith, then I suppose Death is just another excuse for a fancy-dress party.

    To paraphrase the great G.K. Chesterton, “When people choose not to believe in God, they then become capable of believing in anything.”

    • Ginny says on: May 13, 2017 at 6:07 pm


      I salute you GK! VB

  • Mary says on: May 12, 2017 at 6:45 am


    I’m sorry, I disagree with both of you.

    People are entitled to depart this mortal coil in whichever way they choose.

    Live and let die … surely?!

    • Ginny says on: May 13, 2017 at 6:07 pm


      You are, of course, absolutely right, Mary, we all have the right to choose; and you are right to stand up for a freedom that many have defended with their lives. However, we also have the right to deplore (as I often do) the choices made within that freedom.

      The subject in question is comparatively insignificant. The trend for “fun funerals” is not a matter for which one would go to the barricades. But many would find such funerals offensive and belittling – I do myself. The dead deserve respect and a dignified exit; surely not the ephemera of a teen’s party.

      I recall the people I know of, and the millions of un-knowns who have no marked grave. And the dead who are remembered by no one and mourned by no-one. They deserved the nobility and the decency of a respectful and dignified farewell.

      Batman, in my view, is not the man to provide it. Save the party for afterwards. Cheers! Ginny

  • Ms Judd says on: May 15, 2017 at 9:10 pm


    Uh-oh. I’ve planned a funeral for myself full of 90s ambient house music. (And some prayers) Is that terrible, Ginny? X

    • Ginny says on: May 16, 2017 at 1:15 pm


      You sound as if you’ll be there!

      BH has taken the line that as he won’t be, his descendants may do as they please. I think I’ve written elsewhere that after a Requiem here, his ashes will travel to Lithuania, circs. permitting, to be interred in the church built by his ancestors. Am hoping to be around to do this last thing for him. Memorial services are a good opportunity for different music, speeches and a knees-up.

      Gloomily, Gin

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