Cemeteries and Crematorium teams supporting families during difficult times

Published: 10 June 2020

Council House at night

Since the start of the pandemic many Council colleagues have found themselves redeployed in a new role to help keep essential services running – and for some, it couldn’t be further away from their usual day job.

As part of our #HereForDerby campaign we talk to Wendy Bird, an executive assistant who was redeployed to the Cemeteries and Crematorium Team following the COVID-19 outbreak.

Derby City Council services touch every corner of people’s lives, and it’s more crucial than ever that colleagues pull together and do everything they can to keep essential functions going for the city.

It’s this kind of Team Derby thinking that led Wendy – an executive assistant supporting the Corporate Leadership Team – to volunteer for redeployment in a role very different from her day job, in the Cemeteries and Crematorium Team.

Nothing quite brings home the very real devastation and heartbreak of COVID-19 like the work of this service, which has been under increasing pressure – sadly carrying out almost 100 funerals a week at the peak of the pandemic.

Wendy, who started working with the service in mid-April, said the work can obviously be distressing, but that she takes comfort in knowing she has made an important contribution to the city’s families.

I volunteered to work at the crematorium as I knew that sadly it would be a busy time for colleagues working there. As we have been carrying out close to 100 funerals a week during the peak of the pandemic, I have seen some distressing scenes and families really upset, but I hope that I’ve been able to help them in a small way. Whilst this role can be upsetting, it is rewarding, and I can go home knowing that I have made a real contribution during these difficult times.

Wendy has performed chapel duties, which involves meeting the funeral directors, ministers and celebrants, guiding the mourners into the Main Chapel and making sure that both the music is played at the right point in the service and that, if requested, the service is web-casted.

She said:

Making sure that government guidance to limit the numbers of mourners at a funeral is followed was one of the most difficult parts of the job. Obviously we have had to stay within the rules, but when more than 15 mourners turn up this is really challenging. Together with the funeral directors and ministers/celebrants, we work closely to make sure that despite the restrictions we provide a final goodbye which is meaningful for people.

Wendy was guided in her new role by expert Council colleagues already working in the service.

She said:

When I first joined the team I was shown around by the existing team – they are a great bunch and made me feel welcome. It was a fascinating induction into a unique area of work that is done well away from the public glare, so the team don’t often get recognised. The team should be very proud of their work and what they are achieving together. They’re all passionate about what they do and apply themselves with care and compassion for the bereaved, and this drives them in all that they do.

Wendy enjoys her usual role which, alongside three other colleagues, sees her support the Corporate Leadership Team with comprehensive admin support.

She had been continuing in that role part-time during the redeployment and has recently moved back in post.

Wendy says she won’t forget her time working on the frontline of the pandemic, adding:

Whilst I, like many of us long for normality to return, even though I enjoy my usual job I am genuinely sorry that my time working at the crematorium has come to an end, it has been one of the most rewarding times in my career.

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