Funeral Directors Category: South East England
Judith Dandy Dip FS, LMBIFD. Winner of the Most Promising New Funeral Director category in the 2016 Good Funeral Awards, Judith has become one of the most highly respected of the new breed of artisan funeral professionals in just three years since she first began researching the world of funerals.
Dandelion Farewells is the realisation of the dream that began in 2013 when Judith first contemplated being able to offer bereaved families a different, more gentle and personal service. A former social worker, Judith had always been interested in the field of bereavement support and the assimilation of loss during life changes, and having worked with families supporting them through funerals, her interest in the role of the funeral director grew.
As the idea took hold, Judith responded with her natural determination to fully understand and learn about this different vocation, and she spent much of 2014 researching funeral care. She invested huge amounts of time and energy shadowing good funeral directors, observing funerals, attending courses and working for a period for two of the large corporate funeral providers, and by the autumn of 2014 she decided that there was a role for the type of socially responsible and individual business that she envisaged. She wanted to put bereaved families at the heart of the business, to treat them with honesty, integrity and compassion, just as she would want to be treated if she were suddenly bereaved.
Dandelion Farewells was launched in January 2015 with a beautifully planned and presented launch ceremony which reflected the fresh approach to funerals that Judith wanted to introduce. The hard work and dedication involved in organising the launch day showed everyone who was there just how special Judith’s business would be – every detail had been thought of and planned for, and the look and feel of Dandelion Farewells was fresh and contemporary, with a thoughtfulness about every aspect.
The day after the launch, Dandelion Farewells carried out their first official funeral, and gradually word spread about the completely personal, gentle and professional service that Judith was able to provide. Families who chose Judith to look after a relative found themselves receiving really dedicated and personal care, often far beyond the level anticipated. Judith was available 24/7 to each family, and would answer phone calls and e-mails late into the night to ensure that any worries were allayed or questions answered fully. One of her clients attests to this:
‘On a few occasions, something would come to my mind very late at night and so I sent Judith an email about it, with the thought she would pick it up in the morning. It never occurred to me that she would reply by return, regardless of the lateness of the hour. That degree of care and attention prevented several sleeplessness nights on my part. I just hope it didn’t add to hers! ‘
The reputation of Dandelion Farewells as very special kind of funeral director was becoming established.
During the early days Judith worked tirelessly to co-ordinate the care of people who had died using facilities hired from other independent funeral directors, always overseeing everything herself. She frequently drove many miles just to check that a person she was caring for was ok on a daily basis, a situation that was a logistical complication but unavoidable while she looked for the right premises. She visited families at home to discuss their thoughts and to make the funeral arrangements, received coffin deliveries at her house, spent hours on the phone organising every detail and generally immersed herself in ensuring every funeral was perfect and just as the family wanted.
For much of the first years of the business Judith continued to do everything herself, hiring staff and vehicles to assist her when required. She somehow managed to juggle the responsibility of her business with her busy family life and still fit in time to develop her knowledge and understanding of the funeral profession, undertaking study firstly for the British Institute of Funeral Directors’ Certificate in Funeral Service and then the Diploma in Funeral Services, and attending many different workshops, study days and training courses in every aspect of her chosen role.
This determination to be the best she possibly could at what she does is fueled by her dedication to providing the best possible experience for the families she serves, and is what set Judith apart from many others who venture into the world of funerals. She has a need to understand the length breadth and depth of what she has chosen to do, and this dedication to knowledge complements her natural kindness and thoughtful nature, and her eye for the tiniest of detail.
Everything about Dandelion Farewells has been carefully thought through – perhaps agonised over – for Judith, it is essential that every detail is perfect. Everything matters. Nothing is left to chance, every i is dotted, every t crossed, and checked and double checked as many times as needed to ensure that every aspect of her funeral business is as she feels it should be. And when she found the perfect premises in the pretty West Sussex village of Wisborough Green, after many months of searching, Judith was able to begin creating the funeral home that Dandelion Farewells belonged in.
Careful planning and design has led to the creation of a beautiful haven for families who choose Dandelion Farewells as their funeral director. Large windows spill natural light into the reception area, where sofas and chairs are arranged around a coffee table and a small kitchen provides endless access to tea and coffee. There is no funereal paraphernalia, no photos of hearses or plumed horses, no brochures or leaflets or anything that could distract you or set an expectation – this attractive space is designed to provide a comfortable setting for a blank canvas where each client can begin to frame the thoughts about how they want their funeral to look. This is really important for Judith, she wants each family to be the creator of the funeral that is right for them and sees her role as the supporting presence that enables this. The décor is light and warm at the same time – everything is fresh, modern and of real quality.
To one side of the reception is the really lovely loo, the folded hand towels in a basket on the large vanity unit and the orchid and pot plants give it the feel of an expensive hotel, but it’s also a space where you could retreat if emotions overwhelmed you while you were here. Spotlessly clean and beautiful, somehow this little room tells you that everything here is taken care of.
Beyond the reception area, through wooden doors with little glass squares that let the light in, is the room where you can spend time with the person who has died. Elegantly simple, the room has a stunning glass triptych hand made by renowned designer Jo Downs and a comfortable armchair with a blanket folded over it. It is a space that you could personalise, somewhere where you could sit for hours alone or with people close to you. Once again, there are no pre-conceptions, this space as yet doesn’t have a name but it’s not going to be called a ‘chapel of rest’, it’s more than that and not that at all. Like everything Judith is doing, it’s different in a beautiful way.
The rest of the building has been fitted out as the highest quality space for looking after those in Judith’s care. Two large refrigerators provide cool storage for up to six people and an adjoining area can be used for washing and dressing people, or embalming if this is required. Further back there is an area where staff can work if a family needs privacy in the reception area, with a staff toilet and shower room. Outside there are outbuildings providing storage space.
Once Dandelion Farewells had a home, Judith brought in additional staff to help her and to ensure that someone is always there daily for any families who want to visit. Jo Parsons is a friend of many years; a former primary school teacher, Jo is an event planner extraordinaire, and rapidly learned about the whole fascinating world of funerals. Alongside Judith and Jo, Andy Head and Clare Gibby complete the team – Andy previously worked for a large funeral business and is a former Marine as well as a former police officer. He takes care of much of the practical work involved, and is particularly adept with ceremonial funerals. Clare previously worked as an optician’s assistant, and brings all the skills needed to be a great funeral co-ordinator.The small team is close knit, and all of them have the same dedication and aims, with their different strengths resulting in a unique blend of skills that makes Dandelion Farewells quite unique.
Judith’s sensitivity and principles led her to decide not to have an ‘official opening’ for the premises – something that is often done in the funeral industry where local dignitaries and trade association presidents are all invited to attend a dedication service, complete with a photographer from the local press – instead, she asked the vicar from her own church to come privately in a visit with the local vicar from St. Peter’s Church to dedicate the premises for the work that will be done there.
This is typical of Judith’s way of being, she does things for the right reason, not to promote herself or her company. She wants Dandelion Farewells to be something that the local community feel is theirs, not something that is being imposed on them, she has a real sense of devotion and dedication to community that is genuinely felt, and that informs every decision that she makes.
Thoughtful, gentle and professional, the overwhelming feeling about Dandelion Farewells is that of a bespoke service which is entirely dedicated to each family. Whatever style, size or sort of funeral would suit you and your family will be created for and with you by Judith and her team. Nothing will faze her, she is capable, calm and thorough, and every detail will be carefully considered and thought through.
Kindness, compassion and competence. A beautiful environment and gentle, careful staff who really understand how important it is to get everything right. Completely personal service, continuity of care from the first phone call throughout your time dealing with them. Well trained, informed and capable staff who will listen to you carefully and help you work out what it is you want and need.
There is a thoughtfulness informing this business throughout, for example, decisions about attending to the person who has died are always taken on an individual basis once the person is received into their care, there is no routine procedure in place, as sometimes families or care staff will have bathed and dressed the person carefully before Judith and her team arrive, and this last ritual may have been really important to those involved.
Beyond the immediacy of supporting families with their funerals, Judith takes seriously the responsibility to the local community, and she has created a Community Connections programme, fundraising for child bereavement resources to be available in local schools and community groups, running regular bereavement support groups (Dandelion Companions) under their ongoing support programme Remembered Farewells and offering free My Wishes, My Way workshops to help people explore options available to them in their funeral planning.
Judith is unique. She differs from traditional undertakers in her whole approach to funerals, demystifying the process, being transparent and ethical in her approach, bringing sensitivity, calm and an eye for detail that is second to none. Her premises are beautiful, attractive and modern, and not at all like those of a funeral director. And at the same time, Judith differs from some of the other new style funeral directors in her determination to equip herself with as much knowledge and training as she can get her hands on. She could probably fill the walls of her premises with certificates, but she feels strongly that her qualifications don’t define her, they have simply equipped her with a maturity and an in depth understanding of the role she has chosen to take on.
- Your first call will be answered by Judith, Jo, Clare or Andy. Out of hours it will almost certainly be Judith.
- Home visits – yes, this is the first thing that you will be offered, as Judith feels people are generally more relaxed and comfortable if she comes to them.
- Family participation – yes absolutely, the invitation to participate in looking after the person who has died is always discussed.
- Same sex person to wash and dress? Yes of course, just ask.
- Embalming – ‘Not a fan’ – good mortuary care will go a long way to maintaining a body without this invasive procedure. However, facilities are available if embalming is deemed essential for any reason
- Ethnic specialism Dandelion Farewells can support all faith groups, with facilities available for ritual washing at their premises.
- Home arranged funerals – Judith has been trained in home care of a person who has died, and is able to provide advice and support as well as the loan of equipment and resources if required.
- Local celebrants – Dandelion Farewells has an extensive portfolio of celebrants covering a range of styles. Judith always sits in on the ceremony and is well equipped to suggest a celebrant who might suit you.
- Website – really attractive, contemporary website, easy to navigate and with prices clearly laid out.
- Client support – superb. Individual attention and personal service from first contact throughout your dealing with Judith or her team. Two members have been trained by Grief Journey UK to facilitate support groups and Judith and her team have attended a number of training events by hospices and bereavement organisations.
- Money matters – extremely good. Dandelion Farewells offers supreme value for money, with costs that are transparent and full explained.
- Parking – Parking is available directly outside the building, or over the road outside The Crown public house. NB If you arrive to find that another family is inside the premises, the staff at the Crown will look after you with refreshments until Judith or her colleagues are free.
Judith’s award as the most promising new funeral director 2016 was hugely well deserved. She invested huge amounts of time, energy and attention in becoming the best qualified, most well rounded and emotionally intelligent of funeral directors, and, five years on from opening her premises in Wisborough Green, many hundreds of families have been supported to have the most beautiful, meaningful ceremonies.
Her sense of style and appreciation of quality and good taste mean that a Dandelion Farewells funeral will be a beautiful event no matter what kind of ceremony or what format you choose, and she will ensure that you feel completely safe and supported throughout your time dealing with her. You will be kept informed every step of the way, and you can be certain that the person who has died will be cared for with the utmost reverence.
We have watched Judith’s journey from initial beginnings to today’s realisation of a dream, and it is wonderful to see that she is now supporting and assisting other new and burgeoning funeral directors as they follow in her footsteps. She is paying it forward, in appreciation of all the assistance she received in the early days, and is setting the highest of standards for the new 21st century kind of funeral director.
Any decisions you take on engaging the services of a funeral director should be based on your views and research. You should not rely solely upon the views and opinions offered by us.