Vicars forbidding graveside memorials

Last week I read this article in The Guardian about how there are various Vicars around the country who are banning fake flowers from cemeteries. I could not believe what I was reading quite frankly. The article went on to explain that some vicars believe that “The metaphor of flowers is the beauty that weathers and decays. That is why we always put real flowers in the churchyard where they are associated with funerals. Plastic ones don’t decay, so the metaphor gets lost” Now dont get me wrong I believe that is a fair enough point, but that churchyard doesnt represent a metaphor does it? It is a place for friends and relatives to go and visit their loved ones, to talk to them, to sit with them, to remember. Does it really matter if the flowers are real or fake?

I remember the first time I ever visited a cemetery, I blogged about it at the time, I had gone with one of my best friends so she could visit a friend she had recently lost and while she sat with her I went for a walk. I was overwhelmed by what I saw on many of the childrens gravestones, pictures, teddy bears, candles, windchimes, toys all there for these small people that had been taken too soon. It was clear to see that these graves were well loved and looked after by the parents and gave them somewhere to come. Even some of the adult graves were covered in cards, notes, plants, necklaces, ribbons, you name it. And it was touching to see that even after death people still cared about their loved ones in a way that meant they came regularly to visit and lay flowers/tidy things.

As long term readers may remember almost  a year ago now we lost one of my oldest friends aged 19. He was buried and since then I have visited on numerous occasions. At Christmas me and my mum took over some Xmassy flowers and decorations for him and at the start of the month for his birthday I was able to take over a card and some flowers in his favourite colour. I don’t really get to do that for my Grandparents, my Grandfathers ashes are scattered at the 18th hole of his favourite golf club, one that is pretty exclusive so I can hardly walk there and stand at the 18th hole talking to him, and my Nans are scattered in her favourite park under her favourite tree, but theres always people around there having fun and larking about so it feels wrong to feel so reminiscent and such when I go there.

I remember when I visited that cemetery for the first time, I decided then that if I was to die young I would want to be buried so that it gave my family somewhere to go and remember me by, somewhere to place my favourite things. I dont know weather I will always want to be buried, I know its not my Mums preference and I know she hopes I will choose the same as her but for me some childhood memories from a year 6 class will always remain with me, but those are not to be shared now.

Personally I believe these vicars should be allowing fake flowers and everything else families want to leave there, the graveyard may be in their church but its part of those families, their place to remember, to feel close to their loved ones, what right do they have to dictate what should be left there. Sadly these vicars are the ones that are also banning “Pop” songs from funerals after a trend which they believe started from Princess Diana’s  funeral, but for me these vicars are taking away an important part of losing someone, being able to personalise how we remember them, through their favourite music at their funeral, through their favourite flowers at their graveside, be it fake or real.

Where do you stand? Should these vicars be telling us how we can grieve?

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5 thoughts on “Vicars forbidding graveside memorials

  1. I think those Vicars should mind their own business really…
    There was good reason for the separation between church and state and to be told how to live or die or how we mourn our dead is just… yeah… I’m ranting again…
    but now you know where I stand…

  2. I personally don’t see how real vs fake flowers matters at all. As long as the graves are looked after and it’s somewhere that people are happy (not the right word but you know what I mean) to go there then isn’t that what matters?

    As for pop songs – my husband’s best friend died about a year after me and hubby got together, he was only 18 and it was in an accident at work so an enormous shock. At his funeral we sat and listened to The Logical Song by Scooter and it was so surreal to be hearing that type of music in a church but now, every time I hear that song, I smile and think of him.

  3. I must admit I’m not keen on fake flowers I sometimes see them as an excuse for people not to visit the grave as much. Yet I don’t believe vicars should have the right to tell you want to put on your loved ones grave.

    I know personally the importance of the little momentoes we leave on Livvys. The tiny penquin we brought from our first zoo visit without her. To be honest I need to be able to bring her something.

    We did come across a problem last year when the ribbons we had made for her grave with words on were took away due to a complaint by one lady. It’s so hard as grief is so personal.

  4. There is a flip side of this though… these vicars are the custodians of churchyards (not council grave yards – there is a difference and different regulations apply, and you don’t have to be buried in a churchyard) and have to keep all of their families happy. And to be honest, I don’t like plastic flowers at the best of times, but there’s nothing quite as sad as an untended grave with a faded, straggy plastic decoration on it. I wouldn’t want that next to someone I’d lost’s grave. I’d much rather a grave with grass growing over it, which is able to be cut because there aren’t plastic decorations on it. Real flowers do wither and die, and regardless of the metaphors involved in this, they do mean that maintenance of churchyards (and its a sad truth that all graves are eventually unmaintained) is easier. Planting some bulbs – snowdrops, crocus, whatever – are a better analogy than dead flowers or plastic ones in my opinion. And with hope and luck they will last longer than even those of us who mourn our lost ones.

    Also in his defence, whatever the vicar was saying, he was probably enforcing regulations set by his diocese, or at a national level.

    As for the plastic flowers //inside// my local crematorium… they’re hideous. *shudder*

    Another idea is to bring a stone, or perhaps a shell, every time you visit the grave. Over the time, the stones will grow into a memorial cairn, and become part of the landscape.

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