Singaporeans uphold many different customs on the passing of a loved one. It is a hard part of life, albeit a necessary one, and therefore it doesn’t have to be shrouded in mystery and discussed in low tones. The emergence of the Funeral Directorship industry has made it significantly easier for bereaved families to deal with their loss.
This is truer in a country as ethnically, culturally and religiously diverse as Singapore, not to mention the red tape involved in acquiring funeral rite permissions from the government and other parties. Such services usually have funeral packages involving the majority of religions in Singapore. Essentially though, the nitty gritty details will be determined by the budget on which the family is working, just like when planning a wedding.
A family can state its preference for rites, and the directors take over everything, from provision of customized decorations and funeral flowers and wreaths to memorial services and rites abiding by the deceased family’s traditions and religious beliefs. Every family can get a dignified funeral for loved ones regardless of the budget. A few of the more established directors offer pro bono services to families that lack the means to provide a proper send-off for their loved one.
Services that the funeral director is in charge of include:
1. Funeral flowers and wreaths
Funeral flowers and wreaths for a funeral in Singapore are an important part of funeral rites, and this is regardless of the religion. There will be flowers at the wakes, on the casket and various other places now depending on specific practices followed. It is also common for guests to bring wreaths to pay their last respects. Flowers help to add beauty and soften the tough demeanor that characterizes the passing on of a loved one and it is possible to make wreaths in various shapes to convey different meanings.
Together with flowers and wreaths, funeral directors can also provide pieces for the inside of the coffin, sprays and casket sprays. They are in charge of setting up the display at the wake.
2. Casket importation or repatriation
These are used where a family’s loved one passed away while in another country, and the family wishes to transport the body back to Singapore for the funeral. Families can also have caskets brought in from other countries if a family wishes to have a specific one. The directors will be able to take care of all the details, from permits to liaison with freight companies and other licenses needed for importation and repatriation.
3. Cremation and burial
Singapore has three crematoria: The Mandai Crematorium owned and run by the government or the privately owned Tse Tho Aum Temple and Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery. The latter two are costlier since they are private establishment. The country also has the Choa Chu Kang Cemetery, in which loved ones can stay buried for a term of 15 years. At the end of that time, the family may choose between extending their lease, and having the remains exhumed, cremated and stored in one of the columbaria.
4. Preparation and special products
Preparation rites include cleaning the corpse, embalming and make-up. Directors can also provide mourning attire for the family, as well as ceremonial garment to dress the dead in according to the religious practices involved. This includes also provision of special products involved in the funeral rites e.g. incense papers, joss sticks and all other items.
5. Caskets and urns
In a country as diverse Singapore, there must be a wide range of burial caskets, display caskets and urns for families to select from. Even then, some may still want to import a special piece for the symbolic significance if offers, or to show special respects to the deceased. Urns may be made of onyx, granite or marble, with intricate decorations and precious stones. For families that will hold burials, tombstones are also available for the cemetery burials.
The kind of food served also depends on the exact customs followed at the funeral. A Buddhist funeral for instance lays food offerings and fruits for Buddha and for the dead person on addition to the food served to mourners and family during wakes and at the last rites. Families have the choice of selecting on-site cooking as is commonly done at Taoist and Buddhist funeral ceremonies.
7. Funeral set-ups
These include tents, tables and chairs, whether the wakes are at home, at the funeral parlor or at the HDB void decks. The latter is the most common for majority of Singaporean families. Well-to-do families can have VIP tents and chairs set up in private housing locations, though special permits may be necessary for these.
8. Transportation and pall bearing
Finally, the directors arrange for a hearse to carry the deceased, as well as bus (es) to transport family members and guests to various places for the duration of the funeral. Individual preferential hearses e.g. limousine hearses can also be available as per the wishes of the family wants. Pall bearing services includes carriage of the casket to and from the hearse, hospital, funeral directors parlor void deck and finally to the cemetery or crematorium.