Like Lagerfeld, more and more people don’t want a funeral
'Direct cremations', which involve no mourners, no fuss and a lot less money, are becoming increasingly popular
“I don’t want a big fuss. I don’t want a big group of family and friends gathered around crying and making small talk. I just want my wife Joan and our sons to go out for a nice lunch after I die, to celebrate my life.”
So says Colin Chapman, 64, who is still in rude health, but has already paid £1,500 for a no-fuss funeral with Pure Cremation, which markets its service as “no ceremony, no fuss, no funeral”. In that sense, at least, Chapman mirrors Karl Lagerfeld, the longtime creative director of Fendi and Chanel, who died on Tuesday at the age of 85 from pancreatic cancer.
Stars including Victoria Beckham and Naomi Campbell may have led the tributes, but there will be no celeb-studded funeral for the designer. In accordance with wishes he made clear (not least, in multiple interviews) during his lifetime, his ashes will be scattered with those of his mother and Jacques de Bascher, his late partner, in a place known only to him. The subject appears to have cropped up a lot: “They [De Bascher’s ashes] are in a place kept secret with those of my mother,” he said in one interview. “One day, we will add mine. But I do not want a burial, nothing.”
In another, he added: “I’ve asked to be cremated and for my ashes to dispersed with those of my mother ... and those of Choupette [his cat], if she dies before me.”
And, in 2018, when French magazine Numero asked him what type of funeral he wanted, Lagerfeld replied: “How awful. There will be no burial. I’d rather die.”
In this Lagerfeld follows stars such as David Bowie, who was cremated in New York in 2016 without any friends or family present; not even his wife of 24 years, the supermodel Iman. When Booker Prize-winning author Anita Brookner died the same year, her death notice read: “At Anita’s request there will be no funeral.”
A “direct cremation” is where a body is taken from a hospital, hospice or home straight to a crematorium, where it is cremated without a service or mourners present. Catherine Powell, a customer experience director at Pure Cremation, says about 2,000 people in the UK now opt for this, and it costs from £1,195, against the £3,744 average cost of a traditional cremation and £4,798 for a burial. There are no firm figures, but the National Association of Funeral Directors says that direct cremations account for fewer than 3% of the 480,000 deaths in the UK each year, but they are slowly increasing.
“Society has changed so much but funerals haven’t,” says Powell. “More and more people want a personalised, non-religious celebration and that’s hard to achieve in a 30- to 45-minute formal gathering at your local crematorium. Now families can have a whole new level of freedom to say goodbye, how, when and where they want.”
Others want no fuss at all. “‘Once you’re gone, you’re gone’ is something we hear a lot,” says Powell. “They refuse to waste money on traditions and customs that hold no meaning for them. For example, one gentleman has told his family to spend the difference on a meal for all of his friends and family in his favourite Indian restaurant.”
Chapman first heard about direct cremations when his brother-in-law died. “You can do as little or as much as you want,” he says. “For example, they called my sister-in-law a few days before they cremated him to say: ‘Okay, we’re going to do it [the cremation] on this day. Would you like to attend?’ She declined. They’re incredibly compassionate and you can change your mind right up until the last minute.
“You have people arguing that a traditional funeral is right and proper, but I’m not religious. And anyway, surely a funeral is about the wishes of the person who has died? My wife has also paid for a direct cremation, and we discussed it with our sons, who are on board. If they weren’t, perhaps it would be a different story. But it’s right for us as a family.
“Joan and I have decided that if I die first, she and the boys, and our grandchildren, will celebrate my life quietly with a lunch. Joan loves gardening and wildlife so if she dies first we’ll plant a tree as a family, to remember her by.”
They’re probably not the only family who would rather spend time together, reflecting, than send several thousand rands up in smoke.
– © The Daily Telegraph