I am photographing another funeral this week – the family rang me before they had settled on a funeral date; they wanted to know which days I was available before they chose. Their question meant so much to me because it showed such how much they valued funeral photography considering they were having to deal with the death of a parent.
I’d previously photographed and designed a book for the family in 2015 for their mother’s funeral when they wanted her husband, who suffered from dementia, to understand his wife hadn’t abandoned him but had died. Now the father has died and it was for his funeral that they asked me when I was available. They want me to be there as the photographer as they know they will not be able to take much in on the day of his funeral. As one daughter wrote about her mother’s funeral, “When we were blind with grief, you were our eyes”.
And there are more repetitions. Just last week I photographed a funeral for a family I had photographed 11 years ago when the 92-year-old matriarch had died. I didn’t know too much about the deceased last week. All I knew was that Ray was one of the sons of the matriarch. When I turned up at the service, I realised that my role wasn’t to capture images celebrating a life. My role was to show Ray’s young children that they had honoured him by behaving beautifully, and that he was much loved.
The book that I will design will be so much more than a record. It has already expanded to document Ray’s incredibly full life as I learnt by listening to one of the tributes given by his brother.
The book will be so important for Ray’s children who will be able to refer to it whenever they want and as they grow older it will become a tribute to their father they will comprehend. The book will also include both letters written by the children to their father after his death. The book’s back cover will feature the drawing by his daughter of the tracing of his hand and hers within it.
His brothers and sisters are also selecting their favourite photographs of them with him and his niece will then scan these images so they can be part of the book.
So all the family are able to contribute to the book and in doing so, are able to grieve and keep the memory of Ray in their midst.