A day in the life of the In Memoriam secretary
When someone dies, their loved ones may request charitable donations instead of flowers. Our volunteer in-memoriam secretaries play a crucial role in managing these, as Wendy Price tells Sarah Kidner.
What does the role of an in-memoriam secretary involve?
My role is to liaise with local funeral directors and to receive the ‘in memorial’ donations. I deal with around 17 funeral directors in Bridgend and the surrounding area, in south-east Wales. Some funeral directors ask for cheques to the British Heart Foundation and send them to me for banking; others don’t like collecting the money, so they put my name in the paper, or they will put a sealed collection at the crematorium or in the church and bring it to me. My husband and I count it and I take it to the bank.
Afterwards, I send a letter and a receipt to the funeral directors, and a letter to the relatives that offers condolences and tells them who has made a donation.
How much money do you pay in each year?
In 2007, when I started, I received donations of £2,500 to £3,000. Now, I regularly get £10,000 to £10,500. I’ve had as much as £2,500 from one funeral. It was a combination of lots of cheques put together, and they were for young fit men who had died suddenly.
What made you volunteer for us?
I’m giving something back for the help my husband received
My husband, Derek, had been a very fit 70-year-old who played golf twice a week, walked four miles at a time and swam 100 lengths twice a week, but he began to complain of a pain in his arm affecting his golf swing. The doctors sent him for an angiogram and then an angioplasty and stents.
From then on, we wanted to give something back. I’d spent 22 years working in the administration side of the health service, finishing up as hospital administrator of a large psychiatric hospital, and as the in-memoriam role is primarily an administrative one, I thought, “I can do that.”
Read more about volunteering.
Do you ever hear from the relatives after the funeral?
Very often someone will ring me up afterwards pleased at how my letter is worded, but also because it is from someone local. People like the personal touch, which is why we have in-memoriam secretaries throughout the UK.
What’s the most challenging thing about the role?
The hardest part is when I get a box of money. It can take a while to count the small coins and bag up. Sometimes relatives bring the money themselves. I sympathise with them and tell them how sorry I am for their loss. The last couple of times, I have known the person they talked about and have reminisced with them, which they seemed to find comforting.
And the most rewarding?
I’m giving something back for the help my husband received. If there hadn’t been all the research into stents and things like that, would he be here today?