How Memories Become Legacies
A Chat with Darren Miles
As a charity, we often work in partnership with local funeral directors. Funeral directors play an immensely supportive role at the hardest time of people’s lives and are important pillars of any community. They also play a role in guiding and helping people who wish to make gifts in memory of loved ones to causes and charities close to those who pass and their families.
Based in Bognor Regis, Darren Miles Funeral Service is one such funeral director, who have been keen supporters of the charity and offers a since Sage House opened in 2018.
I chatted with Darren himself to find out more about the role of funeral directors, why he supports Dementia Support, and the benefits of In Memory giving not only to charities, but also the families who donate in memory.
Firstly, I asked Darren how he got into the funeral service business;
As he explains, “My father was a funeral director up in Surrey. One day, I went up to visit him, and in the early hours of the morning he came into my room and said, “you’ve got to come out and give us a hand”. That is how I started, and I have never looked back. I’ve been doing this for around 32 years now, set up Darren Miles Funeral Service in Bognor 13 years ago and Oaklands Funeral Service in Chichester 7 years ago.”
Danny: “So you’ve been a presence in this area of West Sussex for a long time! How did you hear of Dementia Support initially?”
Darren: “I had heard of you on the grapevine, but really discovered you when my dad, who had Alzheimer’s, came to need Dementia Support’s services. He visited Sage House quite a few times before he eventually needed to go into a care home. Before my father came down with Alzheimer’s, I was relatively unaware of it, and dementia, but when it is on your doorstep, that is when you become more aware of it everywhere. Now, when I’m making funeral arrangements, I am more acutely aware of just how many people Alzheimer’s and dementia affects”.
Danny: “You’ve mentioned a few times now that your father had Alzheimer’s and how it made you feel, but what do other families who have had a loved one die of dementia say to you about to disease?”
Darren: “They says it’s a very cruel disease, not only for the person who is living with it, but also for their families and carers. For example, just before my father died, I went to see him and he just said to me, “sorry, I can’t stop, I am too busy”, which was tough. It’s very difficult for everyone when memory issues arise, and maybe the person living with dementia cannot recognize their loved ones. My mum now has vascular dementia and suffers from falls which hamper her daily life when she used to be very outgoing. I think lockdowns may exacerbate certain elements of this, and while things will improve, I worry for people struggling now”.
Since his personal experience with Alzheimer’s, Darren has been much keener to support others in their journeys dealing with dementia, and other such diseases. This has especially been the case in the last year during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the effect it has had on local people in the community living with dementia.
Danny: “How have you found things this past year in relation to the local community and the Covid pandemic?”
Darren: “I think people have really been struggling. We are a social animal and we’ve had that taken away from us. It’s … tough for people, to go through more lockdowns, and I’m very concerned about the mental health implications and people deteriorating through lack of stimulation. I have concerns … and the harm that might be born from the effects of lockdown as well as Covid. Therefore it’s important to have a strong local community.”
Danny: “Why do you think it’s important to people that they support a charity in memory, and what benefit do you see of giving in lieu of flowers?”
Darren: “Well, flowers only last a few days and you could easily spend £100 on flowers, or you give it to a charity that will use the money to benefit others. Flowers still play a meaningful role in funerals, such as every family member has a single rose that they can put onto the coffin and it keeps them involved in the funeral as an active participant. The money that is not then spent on flowers can go to the charity, and it can be a much more personal way of doing it. Large bunches of decorative flowers seem less personal. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback for funerals conducted in this way, and means people have a chance to give more to their chosen cause.”
Danny: “You mentioned you feel it’s important to support local causes, what benefit do you feel people get from supporting a local charity rather than a national one?”
Darren: “ I feel it’s more personal. For example, my dad came to Sage House a few times, and every time I came in, the staff were very friendly and remembered me. You get to see the benefit in your local community. In West Sussex we have many great charities, so there are plenty of great local causes to choose from. If someone asks my opinion, I am more inclined to steer them toward a local cause.”
“unfortunately, with dementia increasing, services like these will be needed by more and more people in the future, and from my experience, it’s a great welcoming place with lovely staff.”
“…Its really important for local businesses and community groups to support local charities and build that community relationship. It is important to have a human approach to life and business and I make sure to smile at everyone and be positive
I’d like to thank Darren for talking to me and sharing with us his insight into why gifts in memory of a loved one can be a loving tribute as part of a funeral. If you’d like to find out more about how to set up a tribute fund or have a collection in lieu of flowers, please do get in touch with me – Danny Marenghi at email@example.com
Darren has also very kindly offered the use of one of his shop windows in Bognor to raise awareness about dementia and the charity, and the offer of a cup of tea when we next pass by, two fantastic offers we cannot wait to take him up on!