'I'm proud to be that person that goes to strangers funerals when there is no one else who can attend,' she says.
Death is a very strange concept. For many, it is scary and traumatizing, whereas for others it's an interesting subject. Jeane Trend-Hill, 55, has always been intrigued by the concept of death: cemeteries, funerals and everything else associated with it. After losing her mother, Mary, who died at age 57 when Trend-Hill was only 20, and her father, Joe, who died at 56, when she was only 14, she started to feel at home among cemeteries and crematoriums. She would devote hours to drawing and taking pictures of London's vast Victorian cemeteries.
But she only started going to funerals after she strolled into one accidentally in 2012. "I walked into this pretty church and realized a service was on," she said. "I was raised as a Catholic and told that it's then bad to then leave, so I stayed and sat at the back. It was a complete stranger, but I was moved. Shortly after a cemetery worker reached out and asked if I'd attend a funeral for a veteran who had no one else to pay their respects, so I obliged and went along."
She now states that she has traversed the globe and attended more than 200 strangers' funerals. Workers at the cemetery where Jeane frequently visited then requested that she attend the funerals of the deceased who had no relatives. "I realized that everyone has a story to tell, everyone has lived a life and should have someone around to remember them when they die. Now I've attended nearly 200 funerals for people I don't actually know — although I have lost count of the exact amount."
The Islington, London resident shares that she's proud of the work that she does. "I'm proud to be that person that goes to strangers' funerals when there is no one else who can attend," she said, adding, "No one should ever be cremated or buried alone." Jeane, an actress, photographer, and artist, said, "I've always been fascinated with death since I was a child. 'We would go to cemeteries, and I'd walk around looking at all the graves. They are like outdoor art galleries."
Jeane also spends time maintaining and tidying cemeteries now because she finds them fascinating. In addition, she has been to several cemeteries throughout the globe, including those in Paris and Venice, and she has earned a Ph.D. in mortuary science in order to work as a cemetery historian. Additionally, she dressed in a Victorian mourning gown to reveal the plaque honoring the late British architect Arthur Beresford Pite who passed away in 1934.
She shared, "The first thing I do when I get somewhere is to see where the closest crematory is." On Facebook, strangers have now directly started contacting Jean to invite her to send-offs. "If I'm asked and I can go I will." She says her family even jokes and calls her a 'rent a mourner'. She says, "It's a name they gave me and it's a bit fun,' she said. "Of course, I'd never actually make anyone pay for my attendance at a funeral. I'll wear a mourning dress to funerals if people ask me to. She does this because, for her, it seems like a way of giving back. "Death has never worried me, I just hope I can make death feel less scary for people. It's my way of giving something back."