You’ve probably attended at least one funeral, and it was probably of the impersonal, formulaic kind: the clinical funeral home chapel, the ‘insert name here’ eulogy, the stale sandwiches. The rush to the finish line so the funeral directors could get on with the next one. But Dylan's funeral was a little bit different…
When the coffin holds the body of a young 22 year-old-guy, it’s not surprising that around 450 people will show up to the funeral to say goodbye.
Dylan's funeral took place at Long Reef Golf Club in Collaroy, north of Sydney – a stunning course overlooking Fishermans Beach and the gentle ocean, where Dylan and his dad, a commercial fisherman, used to fish.
Everyone sat outside, most cross-legged on the grass, under clouds that threatened rain. The water was a silver shimmer.
The coffin in question was a simple, cardboard version with silver handles, adorned with native flowers brought from the Blue Mountains by a friend. It was carried by his best mates and cousin.
Alongside the coffin was a large painting, painted by Dylan's sister’s boyfriend on the day Dylan died, of an underwater scene.
Designing a meaningful goodbye
Kathryn Breusch, Funeral Planner and Celebrant for Picaluna Funerals, arranged and led the funeral. She spent many hours, along with Dylan's family, creating a ceremony that would allow his family and friends to celebrate his life and grieve his death.
She also allowed his family time to grieve before the ceremony, and to think about what they wanted. Ten days passed between Dylan's death and his funeral.
“It’s so important that families have some time to just sit and think and relive some memories,” says Kath. “It provides space to think about the whole person in their entirety, all the different facets of their life, so they can create a eulogy and a ritual that honours the whole person. Even when you know someone is dying, there’s still a shock that comes with it.”
Picaluna Funerals is all about creating funerals that don’t follow a formula.
“I think it’s so important to create a ceremony that allows the person’s community – their family, friends and wider community – to be involved in some way,” says Kath. Whether it’s to write messages in a book, bring a flower to the body or draw pictures on the coffin.”
A very personal farewell
The eulogy Kath put together for Dylan's funeral ran for an hour. She broke it up with tributes and readings from his parents, sister, girlfriend, high school mates and family friends.
Dylan's dog was there, too. Earlier, she’d been by his side in the hospital.
“We played two songs, and during the music, his dog was lying on the ground looking up with sad eyes, like she just knew,” says Kath.
The songs, though, didn’t go quite as planned.
“The song ‘A Thousand Years’ came on, and it jumped straight to the next song, ‘Forever Young’. So we let the song play out. Then my colleague, who is really IT savvy, went to play ‘A Thousand Years’ and it jumped back to ‘Forever Young’ again. Then she thought she’d fixed it, and it jumped back to ‘Forever Young’ again. It was like Dylan was going, ‘Are you serious? We’re not going to play this shit!’”
After the ceremony, people wrote messages in scrapbooks that the family had provided.
“One of the most beautiful moments was at the end of the ceremony, before the wake,” says Kath. “The family members took everything off the coffin and his dad and five mates pallbeared him back down the aisle to the hearse and everyone else made a guard of honour, clapping and cheering.
"It was just such an amazing sight to see hundreds of people lining the road. It was a really warm, authentic way for them to all be involved. And to farewell their friend, Dylan.”