FAMILY FEELING: Andrew and Ray Thornalley Picture by Tony Jones

IT’S the one thing we all have in common and yet it’s probably the last thing we want to talk about.

The word itself – death – to be honest, is something I can’t bear to even let enter my head.

So I decided to face my fears and visit Thornalley Funeral Services in King’s Lynn. In my mind, I pictured all funeral parlours to be suffocatingly small and dark.

However, as the sun shone through this modern and spacious building, I felt at ease – not something I had expected.

“You can only do someone’s funeral once, so it’s got to be done right,” said company director Andrew Thornalley.

The business was established in April 1981 by Ray Thornalley, who was previously a carpenter.

It was based in Clenchwarton and then had premises in St James Street in Lynn before moving to its current site in Austin Street in 2011.

And in June 2016, Thornalley Funeral Services bought family-owned Chapmans Funeral Services, in Swaffham, and renamed it Chapmans and Thornalley Funeral Services. In past 36 years, the business has grown from just one man – Ray – to a family business offering a complete service with 22 members of staff. And as for his son Andrew, he has grown up with the business – he knows no different in the world of work.

He said: “I left school at 16 on the Friday and started working on the Monday. It was always something I wanted to do. And I have two sons and they have already said they want to go into it too.”

As I chatted to Andrew, it made me realise how dedicated the staff are –everything from making sure the finer details are correct in an order of service to taking care of funerals locally and as far as afield as Scotland.

“We are on call every day. We’ve had five call-outs in one night before,” said Andrew.

Yet with the many families they deal with, and with all the meticulous planning   that goes on behind the scenes, it is clear to me how they feel a sense of pride in what they do.

Ray explained: “We are here for the needs of the family and we try to make a bad situation more bearable and help to bring them through a very difficult time in their lives.”

Andrew added: “We are one big family here to help other families.”

After my visit, it left me with an admiration for the profession and a reassurance that there are services such as this that can help us at difficult times as ultimately, death is a part of life.