LUCY Jane has a simple philosophy for running her Oxford funeral business: “Nothing’s too silly that you can’t ask.”
The 32-year-old’s approach has led to her being nominated as Funeral Director of the Year in a national industry awards less than a year after she opened her doors as The Individual Funeral Company in Rose Hill.
“There’s been a general change,” she said of the funeral industry, in which she has worked for 12 years.
“It doesn’t have to be this dark, horrible, traditional thing anymore.”
Ms Jane, who offers a bespoke service rather than one-size fits all, said most of her clients opt for coloured cardboard coffins, or others made from bamboo, banana leaf or wicker, rather than the orthodox wood casket.
People are becoming less afraid to ask for personal touches, she added.
It is not uncommon for the deceased to be buried with day-to-day items in their pockets, like cigarettes, whisky bottles or mints, in a contemporary twist on the habit of Egyptian pharaohs of taking belongings with them to the afterlife.
Before starting her own business, Ms Jane’s eye for the unorthodox was honed while working for Motorcyle Funerals, which specialises in providing a hearse as a side-car attached to a motorbike.
“I used to go up and down the country taking people for their last rides,” said Ms Jane, who was based in Oxford at the time.
Ms Jane was inspired to work with dead people after observing the passion her mother, Suzie Jane, had for her job as a hospital mortuary manager.
“Mum gave me some advice on my first day,” she said. “It’s not your grief to have, it’s somebody else’s.”
At 19 she began working in the funeral industry with the Co-operative Funeralcare, in Cowley, before moving on to Motorcyle Funerals.
Ms Jane, who is single, was spurred on to set up her own business, which she opened in September 2013 in the belief people in Oxford were not being offered enough choice for something different in their funeral.
“We ask them questions as opposed to telling them what they’re going to have.”
Her mother helps wash and dress the bodies, while her sister, Hannah Jane, assists in the reception and her brother, Guy Jane, a builder, maintains the office building.
The Good Funeral Awards organiser, Charles Cowling, of Redditch, said Ms Jane received 10 nominations from clients and industry peers. “They regard her as being extremely passionate and she has sufficient business sense,” he added.
Ms Jane is up against nine other nominees for the main award.
There are 15 categories in all, including Embalmer of the Year, Florist of the Year and Gravedigger of the Year.
The awards, to be held on September 6 in Bournville and now in their third year, are renowned for their light-hearted approach to death.
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