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Genuine compassion in times of grief

When Gayle Hardiman’s mother became gravely unwell and doctors told the family that she wouldn’t be coming home from hospital, Gayle knew who to call – Malcolm Pittendrigh, National Director of Salvos Funerals.

“Mal Pittendrigh is just such a caring, non-pressure, lovely guy. It was a natural progression to phone him,” remembers Gayle.  After that initial call, she met Malcolm at a local café and chatted for a few hours about her mother, Betty Tyas, and the family’s wishes for her funeral.

Betty had not pre-booked a funeral and Gayle liked the idea of a not-for-profit service like Salvos Funerals. All proceeds are injected back into the social work of The Salvation Army, through homelessness services, rehabilitation programs and emergency relief for people affected by disasters.

“The day mum passed away, we met Mal and we felt that what could have been a very painful meeting was so beautifully and lovingly handled by the Salvos. All the arrangements regarding the funeral and burial and the church – all of it was caringly done.”

Salvos Funerals has been operational since 2017 in Sydney, Newcastle and the NSW Central Coast. For Malcolm, Salvos Funerals is a natural extension of the work of The Salvation Army.

“The Salvation Army’s mission is to be there for Australians in their time of need, to give hope where it’s needed most. The death of a loved one can be one of the most traumatic things a person can face. We can offer families true compassion at their time of grief,” says Malcolm.

“We can’t take away the sadness of grief but our aim is to help people grieve and provide a funeral that is a thoughtful blend of remembrance, celebration and mourning.”

By offering a transparent and affordable service, Salvos Funerals also helps to alleviate the distress and fear of the funeral process.

While Gayle Hardiman and her family didn’t need a Salvation Army officer to officiate their funeral, she says the extra lengths Salvos Funerals staff went to, in order to make everything perfect for her mother’s send-off, were outstanding.

“There were so many little things. At one stage in the hospital, mum’s hands swelled up so much that she had to take her wedding ring off and that was something she didn’t want to do ... she wanted to be buried with the wedding ring on.”

So Malcolm met Gayle at the mortician after Betty had passed away and personally went to check that the ring had been placed on her finger. He also met her there at another time – when she had chosen and prepared her mother’s outfit for burial – and delivered it to the mortician. 

“That was all hard stuff – when you’re mourning the loss of someone who has been in your life for a long, long time. But it was made easier by the care and love – and there was no pressure – it was just the gentle caring way of Salvos Funerals.”

Gayle says her family was so impressed with Salvos Funerals that they engaged the service when her uncle passed away just six weeks later.

 

A version of this article first appeared in The Salvation Army’s online magazine Others.org.au