Meet Gillian, a funeral arranger at Fosters in Clydebank.
Mum of one Gillian talks about the most unique funeral she’s ever organised, her favourite tradition, and why you can’t beat a good night out with the girls.
What made you choose this as a career?
I studied Beauty Therapy and Make-Up Artistry at college and thought that eventually I’d like to be an embalmer. I don’t know why but I was always interested in the funeral industry. I was told that to be an embalmer people normally work for a funeral director and get put through the course. However once I began working for Fosters as a funeral arranger, I realised that this role suits me perfectly. I find looking after families in the Clydebank parlour incredibly rewarding.
In fact, the best bit of this job is knowing that I am giving families peace of mind at what is a really upsetting time. I plan everything, taking the pressure and worry off their shoulders, giving them more time to process their loss.
You have to be strong for the family you’re looking after, having a caring nature is essential for this role.
What is the most unusual funeral you’ve ever arranged?
I once organised the funeral of a young man who had passed away suddenly. He was a big fan of parties and clubbing and his family wanted that reflected in his funeral. It wasn’t to be a sombre affair and the theme was Pride . The coffin was brightly decorated and the hearse was led by horses with big feather plumes in multi-colours. They played Lady Gaga and Britney Spears songs and all of the mourners wore hoodies in rainbow colours with the young man’s name on the back.
It was loud and proud and joyful, a real celebration of who he was as a person. It was a tragic loss for the family, but they took great comfort knowing he got a send off that captured his vibrant spirit and lust for life.
We don’t get many flamboyant funerals in Clydebank, but we do personalise funerals as much as possible so those attending leave the service knowing it was a fitting tribute. I know that brings people a lot of comfort in the days and weeks that follow.
What are the questions you get asked the most?
People will often say ‘How do you do that job? It must be awful!’ but actually my job is not all about sadness and heartache. Believe it or not some families I work with like to have a wee laugh too. Hearing about their loved one, who they were and what they loved to do is really interesting. I like listening to all the stories. And seeing people support each other and share kindness is really heart-warming.
What songs would you have at your own funeral?
Ellie Goulding, How Long Will I Love You was my wedding song, so I’d have that to start the service. Then I’d have Dancing in the Sky by Danni and Lizzy because I was a dancer for many years, then I’d have Queen of My Heart by WestLife. I’m a big WestLife fan and that’s a favourite of mine.
I’m in my 30’s so young to think about organising my own funeral, but it is easier for those you leave behind if you’ve got things written down and have discussed it.
What’s your favourite tradition?
My favourite tradition is when the funeral director walks in front of the hearse and turns to remove their top hat and bows their head. I find it very touching as it is such a beautiful mark of respect. I know that it means a lot to the families and it is a standard part of what we do at Fosters. Some families ask that a step is taken for every year of the person’s life, others just appreciate the gesture.
When you’re not working how do you like to spend your time?
My wee girl is three, so we spend a lot of time painting and playing and baking cakes. Days out with my daughter and husband are my favourite pastime. I do still love a good night out with my friends. Getting glammed up, enjoying a few drinks and then we’re dancing until closing time!