I have been honoured and humbled to have been personally involved in the business of Burial at Sea for 35 years. During that time I have met many memorable people and have been proud to turn their wishes (to many an unusual choice) into a profoundly unique and special occasion.
Historically we conducted Burials at Sea for (among others) WW2 veterans of both the Royal and Merchant Navy and it is clear that the sea had been an enduring and significant feature of their lives, so fitting that they would want to rest there when their time came. Wives who attended were so moved by the experience that many made arrangements with us wishing the same for themselves.
Whilst still not commonplace, Burial at Sea is of interest to a wide audience. The sea is a magnet for many, offering opportunities for fun and leisure whether that be a walk along the coastline, swimming, sailing, or surfing it is often a source of happy memories. Equally it offers scope for contemplation, an awareness of one’s insignificance when compared to the magnitude and power of the sea and oceans. The sea-scape is ever changing, bewitching us with the sparklines of summer sunshine on still waters, as compared to the immense power of a winter storm.
It is clear that for those that do choose a Burial at Sea their reasons can be as individual as they are. A lady once explained her reason for seeking this option and I will share it with you, finding herself terminally ill she had begun to think about her funeral plans and what this would mean for those she would be leaving. She had two adult children, a son in New York and a daughter in Sydney, Australia. She was anxious that should she choose a terrestrial burial her “children” would feel responsible for the tending of her plot and headstone. She recognised the importance of connections, but wasn’t happy with the thought of a cremation and her ashes being scattered. She chose a Burial at Sea knowing her children could stand on the beach on her birthday or any day, think of her, and feel close to her. This remains one of the most unselfish and poignant choices I’ve heard.
Making a funeral plan is now quite commonplace, it is beneficial for one’s own peace of mind knowing your wishes will be fulfilled, with little effort needed by those you are leaving behind. Burials at Sea are no different, people often contact me many years before their death to discuss their wishes. I recommend they complete a “Notice to Executors” form and ensure their solicitor and next of kin have a copy. I find that every year or so they will ring to make sure all is in order, also chatting about life, health and family to the extent that on the day of the Burial at Sea family and friends are often surprised by how well I knew the deceased.
The committal itself takes place approximately 3 miles south of The Needles, an iconic landmark on the south coast just off The Isle of Wight. On their final journey the deceased in their marine coffin (draped in the flag or covering of their choosing), will be on deck. I know from experience that friends and families have found it a comfort to be close during this time. They are able to touch the coffin, place flowers, post a last note and also, which I find moving, have a last few words. These are important and meaningful moments and allows time for those present to prepare for the final parting.
The on-board service can be as religious or secular as wished, to include any chosen poems, readings or music. Immediately after committal comes a silence full of tranquillity peace and serenity, flowers are placed on the water and eventually the silence broken by a toast and all raising a glass to the deceased before returning to shore with stories and reminiscences.
Britannia will manage every aspect of the Burial at Sea with the aim of reducing any concerns – no detail is too small. We are committed to making it a fitting tribute, tailored to the individual. The service will however be your choice and I look forward to discussing it with you.