Page 1

The Natural Death Centre’s official magazine

more to death twelfth edition 2018

Rosie’s Tour of the East

Plus

FROM FIREFIGHTER TO FUNERAL DIRECTOR

What I Want Done With my Body

UNCOVER HIDDEN AND AMAZING OPTIONS SURROUNDING DEATH AND FUNERAL PLANNING


Editor’s Comments Welcome if you are reading this magazine for the first time. I can’t believe we have completed six years of exposing the good, the bad and the downright nasty side of funeral world. It is all going on out there! Read on, read the past editions become armed and able. Things are improving but the public generally remain vulnerable, ignorant consumers. Don’t become one, it is not healthy. If you learn something new from the contents please share with anyone who cares to listen. If I were to create an Idiot Of The Year award, so far this year it would be shared between a hospital bereavement officer and a coroners’ officer. 1 Family one told that if they wanted to bury their brother on their farm that they would need a license from the council as his body would be “classed as household waste”. They were deeply wounded at having him described in that way and obviously given incorrect ‘facts’. 2 Family two told that a body had to be transported in a closed vehicle and they must black out their estate car windows in order to collect Mum from the hospital mortuary. 2


www.naturaldeath.org.uk

What is wrong with these people? How can professionals in these caring roles be so ignorant and horrid to the bereaved? On the plus side the Natural Burial Ground awards for 2018 highlight the incredibly good service being given to families throughout the UK see page 8. Their ranks are also swelling, congratulations to the new natural burial grounds who have recently obtained their planning permission. See lists of all Association members on our website. On the personal front my husband and I have finally started to build our ‘grand design’. I am project managing so have asked my trusty assistant Carol Waters, aka Thrifty Carol, to guest edit for the next year. Please send her in your articles, stories, rants and inspirations - contact@naturaldeath.org.uk Looks like we are in for a hot summer. Here if you need us

Rosie Inman-Cook 3


Content

16- Doffin the Coffin

25 - The Radiance of the Resurrected Heart

54 - Rosie’s Tour of the East

80 - Firefighter to Funeral Director

4


38 - My Brother-in-Law buried my Wife

64 - Avoiding the Subject

72 - Music Matters

88 - What I Want Done with my Body

5


MEMORIAL WOODLAND

A natural green burial ground set in beautiful countryside on the outskirts of Skipton. Discover all about the Memorial Woodland at Skipton Contact: Jacquie Morley - 07878 799589 or 01729 840065 enquiries@tarnmoor.co.uk | www.tarnmoor.co.uk

F R EED

Woodland A rea M emorial Stones

M

F U N E R A L S

the funeral you want The freedom toChoose choose the funeral you want We are known for our personal touch and are available day or night to help you through this time, offering advice and guidance

01206 862963 www.freedomfunerals.co.uk

“We can’t thank you enough for all the kindness you have shown us.”


f o t s Be

the Best Places to Rest

2018 People’s Awards announced

Hundreds of feedback forms have been reviewed and marked. This year’s head judge listed the unique words describing the customer service received from the natural burial grounds. The winning site notched up more uniquely positive comments and rate of 5 stars as a percentage of returned forms.

The overall winner scores a hat-trick in 2018 and was described thus :Exemplary, Exceptional, Superb, Top class, Incredible, Amazingly good, Absolutely wonderful, Brilliant, 1st class, Fantastic, Outstanding, Brilliant and 38 families used the word Excellent. The families also highlighted these strengths :-

Tender, Respectful, Lovely, Helpful, Thoughtful, Enthusiastic, Personal. Considerate, Caring, Warm, Welcoming, Approachable, Sensitive, Attentive, Patient, Courteous, Unstuffy, Empathetic, Kind, nothing being too much trouble and going above and beyond.

Exemplary | Exceptional | Superb | Top class | Incre If this could be bottled and spread through out businesses and society in general what a wonderful and successful world we would inhabit. Well done Jo and Tom at Higher Ground Meadow in Dorset. 8


Brilliant | Fantastic | Outstanding | Excellent |

edible | Amazingly Good | Absolutely Wonderful |

9


And the rest of the Awards Go To...

10


EAST of BRITAIN

Winner: Brightwater Green Buri al Ground Lincolnshire Runner Up: The Willows Natural Buri al Ground Leicester

N NORTH of BRITAI

Winner: urial B d n la d o o W s d n Brockla Settle Runner Up: Rest f o s d o o W y r e v Clo Aberdeen

WEST of BRITAIN

Winner: Humber Woodland of Remembrance Herefordshire Runner Up: Westhope Green Burial Green Shropshire 11


SOUTH EAST

Winner: urial Site Hampshire Runner Up: St. Albans Woodland B urial Ground Bedfordshire South Downs Natural B

And the Awards Go To...

SOUTH WEST

Winner: Higher Ground Meadow Dorset Runner Up: Pentiddy Natural Burials Cornwall

OVERALL WINNERS

Winner: Higher Ground Meadow Dorset Runner Up: l Site a ri u B l ra tu a N s n w o D South Hampshire

12


All excellent and the crème de la crem. 13


14


15


Doffin the Coffin

Thoughts by The Rt. Reverend Charles Mugleston

Once upon a time, in the Victorian era in the UK all the pallbearers wore black top hats such being the fashion/order/normal custom of the day… but today (2018) we usually see the pallbearers team leader being the only one who wears such a hat – get a head get a hat ? Well, yes and no and this state of affairs needs to change – balance itself out for the good of all concerned. Google’ funeral bearers’ or ‘pall bearers around the world’, then ‘images’, and then we see the larger picture beyond this rather insular isle. We see colour photo’s of american, israeli etc funerals where the armed forces especially wear their respective, often stylish and dignified helmets, caps, berets, etc. We see black pallbearers and families wearing their own special headgear, we see muslims wearing their sacred prayer caps. The pall bearers for Suzanne Bernier’s funeral wore fur hats, therefore hats are not unknown in this area of service and for very good, time honoured, practical reasons, please read on before you snooze off. ‘The old order changeth, yielding place to new… ‘ Alfred Lord Tennyson ‘Nice one Alfie – nice one son’ pardon the personalized pun but of certain current funeral practices we need to poke a little fun…!>>

16


photo:eljee.nl

17


>>Surely, with the wisdom of sweet reasonableness it is high time to move on and allow coffin bearers their right to wear appropriate headgear when the weather is not good, and not feel bad about it. Many who have served and now serve in this area are of mature years – and in various degrees of baldness – and the scorching sun or freezing temperatures, pouring rain, hail, snow, etc are not conducive to good health – can indeed aggravate already delicate health, cause suffering - so I would ask the funeral and larger fraternity to consider this idea which I am sure has been mooted many a time and oft, but not acted upon out of ‘traditional’ practices of respect.

There is often quite enough suffering at funerals and we should not add to it Hats….fairly plain peak caps could be sensitively doffed at the right time and in the right way - uniformly and so offer that very genuine and loving gesture of respect – and then… letting commonsense prevail, put the hat back on to keep untoward weather off as hats have done since time immemorial. A funeral is indeed a time for gestures, big and small and these should be for the health and wellbeing of all concerned. Funeral firms, directors / team leaders need to put their thinking caps on and not be so selfish. Thank you for listening – and doing something about it.

18


19


Serving families in the area for over 225 years, we are here to help and guide you. We hope to make this difficult time as gentle as possible for you. Please do contact us with no obligation. Our prices are listed on our website.

020 7387 6075 | www.levertons.co.uk | info@levertons.co.uk 6 BRANCHES ACROSS NORTH LONDON Camden | Golders Green | Gospel Oak | Hampstead | Kentish Town | Muswell Hill


The Radiance of the Resurrected Heart ‘Hi A, How are you! I have some sad news and just thought I would let you know that Connor died yesterday. So sorry. Love K’ Connor was a good friend when I was a teenager, and for a while, a bit more than that. Friends had kept me up with the news of our little gang over the years, and we were friends on facebook, but after I left the area at 19 I had only seen him twice. I would like to say I was surprised and shocked but I wasn’t. My first thought after reading the text was ‘Well, I am amazed he survived so long’ At this time of year, as spring gently nudges the flowers into life, the longer days and returning light are welcomed with a sense of relief and a celebration. The festival most strongly associated with this natural rebirth of nature and the coming of the sun, is the Christian narrative of the resurrection of Christ. >>

24


25


>>This story has parallels with many ancient myths..the story of Inanna.... Persephone’s return from the Underworld, and it is a theme that is explored in so many of our modern stories, plays and films...from ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ to ‘Robocop’. But the story of the crucifixion of Jesus is perhaps the most powerful and widely known of death and resurrection stories, and is a beautiful metaphor for many psychological truths. In a modern person centred funeral service the Eulogy is the heart of the ceremony. Speaking good words, and bringing the person ‘back to life’ in an honest but kind way is a chance for everyone to recall their unique character and some touching stories...a smile and a laugh...and perhaps learning a few more things about someone too. At this point there is an opportunity to cast our minds back over the arc of a life and perhaps put any difficulties that were there at the end into some perspective - recall someone at their happiest and best - after all it is usually such a short time someone is ill in the scheme of things. This is particularly important when the illness has been long and protracted, say, dementia or MS..diseases that are famously ‘a long kiss goodbye’ to the person that we love. To recall the heady days of courting for a bereaved widow can help to resurrect someone in a way that she wants to hold forever cherished. It is THIS person she will go home with, And if we can do that in some way for everyone, it is a gift.

But what about when overall the memories are not so favourable? Connor was always the one to push at the boundaries of things. Tall, dark and rangy, he liked to dance at the edge of the veil....perhaps even daring death to come for him with his heedless attitude to his physical limits. He liked to take risks, and the everyday was never enough for Connor. If there was a bike to be ridden, he would customise it...to go faster.... look crazier... strip it down and he rode hard. If there was a fire Connor would stand too close...once blowing his eyebrows off spraying the fire with petrol. He even fell from a fourth storey window....for no reason other than he was sitting too far out on the window sill.

It was inevitable he would find his way into drugs. 26


27


28


>>Here at Go Simply Funerals many of the people for whom we organise funerals have had some struggles. Nellie was a lady who was brought to us by her daughter who had had a very difficult relationship with her mother as for many years she had been a ‘roaring drunk’ as she put it. The chaos of family life had led to divorce, with the children leaving to go and live with their father and having little contact with Mum for many years. Her own brother disowned her after she dropped his baby daughter whilst inebriated...and he never forgave her. Nellie ended up on the street literally with her face in the gutter...homeless....lost....and at rock bottom. The stations of the cross are a moving and profound depiction of the journey to Jesus’s eventual death, and they speak to us of the journeys we all take through the struggles of life. It is often said that we all have our crosses to bear, we fall, pick ourselves up, often only to fall again. At one station Jesus meets his mother in the crowd...and for a moment we can imagine he finds a place of comfort...some solace in the sanctuary she can give him with the love in her glance. In another station the stranger Simon picks up the cross and carries it for the bruised and weakened Jesus...the compassion of a human for another in his suffering. In the end Jesus is stripped. His last defences torn away and he is ridiculed...mocked... and killed.>>

29


>>Nellie was found in the street by a member of the Salvation Army and given a second chance. She found a spiritual salvation, and although it may have been an outward declaration of faith that turned her life around, it was as much in the belief of others in her ultimate good nature.

She was shown unconditional love...and Nellie found her way back. She spent the next 25 years doing good for others, staying with the Salvation Army, and went a long way to rebuilding the relationship with her daughter, who admired her greatly for what she achieved. However, Nellie could never forgive herself for her failures as a mother...and spoke of them often as she lay in the hospital at the end of her life. Connor’s descent into heroin addiction eventually drove all his childhood friends away. The blame for the death of another friend from an overdose in his flat was set squarely on Connor’s shoulders, and as others made a life for themselves, Connor seemed stuck perpetually in limbo...the clock stopped at 19 years old with no wife, no children and no job. He was rejected, abandoned and somewhat friendless and so Connor found solace in his cat and the needle. All addicts are difficult to like...or to have any sympathy for, as their troubles are seen as self inflicted, and they do some terrible things no doubt. Connor was certainly no Jesus Christ, but to his mother he was her beloved son and she resolutely refused to abandon him. It was in her that Connor found his soul’s solace...and in her he found his refuge, like Mary was for Jesus at his lowest point in his trial. For the whole of the last year of his life when his world became no bigger that his little flat. Mum was his only company, and she was there to help him every day. She told no-one that he was so far gone in his addiction and was now dying, as the shame of what he had become was just too great for her. Connor was in and out of hospital and she carried this cross alone. It was she who found him cold in his bed two days after he had died. Redemption for Nellie was easy to speak about in her funeral. She had turned her life around and in so many ways was an inspiration for everyone there who listened to her story. Nellie died with good friends by her side and we all left inspired that we can all do those little things to come through and make changes in our own lives...our own resurrection...we could practice every day.>>

30


31


32


Connors funeral was hard. >>At first his mum wanted a completely traditional funeral, with no Eulogy and none of his personality present in music choices or the look of the space. But, slowly, his old friends reappeared, as there is nothing like a death to bring people out of the woodwork. In their recalling and retelling the old stories, and remembering how Connor had been in his youth, there started to be a sense that the Connor that he was, was being restored. Over the weeks before the ceremony many of them paid visits to the family and shared memories over a cuppa, and on the day itself we didn’t have a bad turnout. My job, as Celebrant, and as a friend was made easier as I had never known Connor at his worst, and only had good memories and stories to share. Many interviews with the old gang unearthed so many lovely things that I was able to write and deliver...yes somewhat one sided I confess....a service that was a consolation for his whole family. After the funeral was over and everyone was at the pub, a mutual old friend shouted over to me ‘you saved Connor today’...but as I turned to leave I noticed his Mum...smiling, chatting...surrounded by friends...and holding her head high. Connor was not saved in life and he will not be resurrected after death, except now in the memories that were shared. I thought to myself...’I could not save him....but perhaps I have helped save his mother.’ Her shame had been lifted as Connor had, in her eyes at least, been redeemed.>>

33


Sitting gently by took her hands an in both their eyes that he loved her.

34


her bed, he nd with tears s, he told her .

>>It is so easy to judge and to see another’s faults. Weaknesses and defences are so easily ripped away with harsh and careless words and actions, leaving another stripped and naked in their shame. We are, all of us fragile....and sometimes those weaknesses...those faults....are all we have. Resurrection is a restoration to life of all that is good...hope...like spring.. after the darkest of winters. Redemption is something else. It is the gift of unconditional love that is often about saving someone from the prison of their own selves by reaching beyond the surface...by believing in something perhaps they cannot see in their shame. All of us can make a difference...can bring this gift of love which is a light in the darkest corners of a soul...to walk for a while beside someone in their pain. Redemption means to have faith in the goodness of humanity at the very heart. To bring our gifts to those who suffer. And Nellie? Well, three days before she finally died her brother came to see her. Sitting gently by her bed, he took her hands and with tears in both their eyes, he told her that he loved her. She was saved. ’These ten years of working with families at their time of mourning have been the most incredible gifts I have encountered. In some of the most humble of lives I have found stories of dignity, humanity and great love, in sometimes extremely challenging situations. In these articles every story is true, albeit with name changes for privacy, and as these families deal with these challenges, we in turn may be inspired by these remarkable ordinary people. Each one a story of us all’.

Article by Angela Ward

35


We are an award winning, independent funeral directors committed to providing beautiful, affordable Funerals with the personal touch. All services are crafted especially for the person who has died and keep the family at the heart of all proceedings. We believe that competitive and open pricing should not compromise our commitment to professional and dignified care of the highest quality. We have been finalists at the Good Funeral Awards 2017 and are recommended by The Natural Death Centre and Fair Funerals UK. We are a company committed to ethical and environmental concerns and fair funerals for all. If you are interested in becoming a part of our growing collaborative network of independent funeral directors offering beautiful, personal and affordable funerals then call us now on

0800 107 6096 or email info@gosimplyfunerals.co.uk. Whether you are looking to start a new business or grow your existing one we can help.


We had plans to do things with our retirement. Nothing dazzling, just things we didn’t have time to do while working long hours...

38


My Brother-in-Law Buried my Wife And how much I really need to thank him for doing so. My wife Loraine died on 26 January 2018 from a particularly aggressive form of non Hodgkin’s lymphoma called enteroplasty associated T cell lymphoma. She died within two month of diagnosis. The disease was so aggressive that her descent was nasty, brutish, and short. She was so industrious and hard working and full of life and love - a really young 57. We had plans to do things with our retirement. Nothing dazzling, just things we didn’t have time to do while working long hours, leaving early for work, arriving home late from work. Loraine was born in October 1960. A surprise twin not identified antenatally and thought to have been still born when she was eventually delivered the day after her twin sister. Left aside while staff cared for her mum who was suffering from the trauma of such a difficult and complicated birth. An observant midwife noted that the child was moving and not dead as had been thought in the melee of activity. So you might say she had 57 more years than anyone could have hoped at the time. I’m so grateful to that midwife and her diligence as Loraine spent the best part of 40 of those years with me. I loved her deeply throughout all of those years, and will continue to do so for the rest of mine. Loraine was the youngest of five children. She was one of four sisters with Maxine (her twin), Julie and Gaynor and one solitary brother, Chris. A well known and often told family story relates how Chris as a very young man didn’t care much for ironing and so paid his teenage sister Loraine to do it for him. She often teased him that he still owed her for the last lot that she’d done for him all those years previously. >>

39


>>I met her at sixth form college and we became friends in 1977, fell in love in 1979 and married in 1984. We were very much in love then and grew more so as the years passed as we faced and, when needed, overcame the challenges and tragedies of life; and relished the joys and pleasures. My experience of her loss is ongoing, visceral and painful and I’m working that through with, like others who are grieving a loss, the help of family and friends. I miss her beyond words and beyond measure. Nevertheless writing helps me - hence this article, and, with those words sometimes emerging as poetry sometimes as prose. That doesn’t mean that my writing is necessarily any good although, for me, it is the medium of expression of emotion and anguish rather than the excellence (or not) of the poetry or prose which is important. At least I hope it is. Not long after we got married I trained as a registered general nurse and subsequently as a mental health nurse later in the 1980s. Like Loraine, who worked in breast care as a mammographer, I worked for the NHS. And when she became so very unwell I spent all my time with her. A cancer diagnosis is devastating and we knew that the particular variant from which Loraine was suffering would be difficult and highly risky to treat. During treatment we met with the consultant who told her that if she did not start chemotherapy that day or the next she would be dead in two to three weeks. She’d been too unwell to start chemo previously. The consultant told her that if she needed to make any arrangements or had anything to say to anyone then this was the day to do it. This is what she said: First - She wanted to be laid to rest at ‘The Willows’ and that an English Crab Apple tree be planted. She detailed the plants for her grave as snowdrops and cyclamen, celandine and bluebells and primulas and snakes head fritillaries. These are the flowers she saw blooming as she walked the dogs across the year. Secondly - She wanted some Elton John played at her funeral – the one with the words which include ‘what have I got to do to make you love me’. And thirdly - She provided me with step by step instructions on how to defrost the freezer.>>

40


41


42


>>Despite this stark warning we remained confident that the treatment would work. As a teenager Kate, our daughter, had been treated with very similar chemotherapy to that prescribed for Loraine and she had recovered. So, we knew it could be done and understood the things we needed to do which would help with recovery. When Kate was undergoing high dose chemotherapy she’d spent a couple of months in hospital. Loraine and I spent alternate nights in hospital with her so were never at home together during that period. Loraine told me how much she missed me being at home. So, I made an effigy of myself from towels and pillows and a A4 printed photo. It made her laugh. Laughter was always a key feature of our marriage. My effigy is holding the ‘100 Love sonnets’ of Pablo Neruda (a Chilean poet) and the book is open on the 89th sonnet. It is this sonnet I read at her committal. Sadly the cancer proved to be too brutal and aggressive and Loraine too debilitated to overcome it and the rigours of treatment. She fought tooth and nail for life to no avail and with her the oncology staff battled so hard to save her that we could not have asked for more. Maxine, Loraine’s twin, and I were present with her when she died. We’d spent ten days and nights sitting with her in vigil, as our duty, love and honour demanded. She was a quite remarkable woman who merited and earned our love and respect and more. There were times, in all of those hours with her, when my professional ‘head’ overrode my personal emotional head. On one occasion, for example, earlier in her journey she had collapsed as I was helping her to the loo. I lowered her to the floor, called for help, ensured her airway was clear...all of the things I’m trained to do. It was only when I got home and processed the day - running through what had happened that my emotional self kicked-in and overrode that professional head. I’d done what the situation needed and made her safe (although the reality was that she was never truly safe) but at night sitting alone in bed re-running the events of the day this was now my beautiful, beloved wife utterly vulnerable and in desperate straits on the floor of a bathroom unconscious. The anguish and despair of that hits like a sledgehammer. >>

43


>>It’s difficult to describe how to manage the dislocation and emotional friction between the professional and personal selves. One rational and dealing with the situation; the other emotional and distressed, beyond distraught, to see the person they love so deeply degraded and desperately ill, their life in jeopardy. And it’s here that I’m going to pick up and link to my view of Loraine’s brother Chris’ story. Chris and his wife Jenny are the owners and directors of The Willows Natural Burial Ground in Leicestershire (and I love them both, as does she). We were frequent visitors to the Willows to support Chris and Jenny and to help with open days and planting days and to eat their cakes. We also had a small input into the naming of the ground some years before. Loraine liked it there. As such Chris and Jenny were able to provide informed and wise counsel as to what was needed at certain stages in Loraine’s journey. It’s an esoteric field of expertise. So, for example, when medical staff confirmed what we had all feared so greatly that the cancer had spread and was ‘raging’ in her brain and central nervous system we knew that all hope of recovery was lost, Chris was able to help me to identify a funeral director and guide me as to what I needed to do to sort this out. That period of limbo was so distressing for us all that his seemingly calm head was a safe harbour in a torrential and tempestuous sea of despair and anguish. From then on if I needed him, or Jenny, then they were there. So for several meetings with the undertaker (even if this required that he left work to do so) he was there, to reminding me about the need to organise the detail of the logistics for the celebration of her life and committal, to hosting meals for collective family discussions as to who should do what and when, to reviewing the venue for the celebration so we knew the route her procession would take, to helping in the choice of a beautiful woollen coffin to best fit the wishes she’d expressed to me, to his realigning the burial site to accommodate her wish to have a crabapple tree planted, to helping with sourcing a caterer (Brenda) who could do a high tea for the hundreds we expected to come to the ceremony and a celebrant to support and guide us, to forms to be be completed for her committal and subsequently for me to purchase the plot next to her.>>

44


45


>>He put what she needed first each time, even if this was difficult, awkward, distressing or massively disruptive. He put her first. He put her first when he helped with family members to lower her to rest. He put her first. Some time after Loraine’s committal Chris brought me the ‘Right of burial certificate authority’ document for my own plot for me to sign. I duly signed. He also brought me the copy of Loraine’s ‘Notice of interment’. Later, when alone with my thoughts and time to really think, I read those documents in detail; and perhaps for the first time really appreciated how distressing it must have been to have completed them. To be doing something so familiar within the professional role as director of the burial ground and yet this relating to one of the people most important, most tender to him. And the depth of that same dislocation that I had felt, and caused such powerful emotional reactions during the journey of her care, became truly evident and real to me. That same set of emotions of anguish and despair and distress would have been there for them too. The professional head to deal with the circumstance and to support me in doing so, and then the crashing pain of this relating to Loraine a truly adored and cherished sister. He put her first. While I have found release if not solace in ‘writing’ it’s my sense that Chris has found this in his ‘doing’. In each act of doing and helping he expressed his love for his sister. Neither he nor Jenny could have done more or could have loved her more. And I have to thank them for burying my wife with the honour and love as she richly deserved and had earned in life. ‘Thank’ is such a small word to express such gratitude. He put her first. I’ve sought to express these thoughts in poetry. As I’ve said above. It might not be any good but it is heartfelt. So this poem is for Loraine and also for Chris, who put her first. With Love.

46


47


Dressing Your Grave I read you Neruda in 2004 The sensuality of touch woven into his words speaking to us woven as we were, woven as we are, Woven into our challenges, my effigy. His words expressed our love. I spoke them aloud, proud, above ground, before you went below, where I did not have the strength to lower you Arms crippled and bent broken by the weight of your loss. Others heard but I spoke them for you You, only you, only ever you Though numbed and bewildered. The next day, honour bound; Magnificent crabapple your brother, in love, planting With such love, in his actions, brisk with distraction; Brenda’s snowdrops erstwhile brightening your celebration high tea, to plant, to adorn your grave. We broke the clods of earth tilth to tilth And planted the snowdrops and roses - Rosa Rugosa at your belly for the syrups you made, Canina at your feet, loyal and true as in life. Symbolic, Grasping meaning from the meaninglessness of your death Which had pushed you out of your great meaning to us To me, to me, to us. Us all. I dress you still with the plants you asked for that dreadful day, fateful. Just celandine now Just celandine Celandine And then done Done.

48


And finally - if it were up to me I’d be happy to say that the ironing debt from all of those years ago has been settled and that the slate is clean. Sadly for Chris it’s not up to me. Loraine was always a much harder sell so, in the final reckoning, I think it’s still up to her, and always was.

To read more about Loraine’s story click here. Through Hell and highwater she is your daughter. -

David Knight. April 2018

49


One of my illustrious Victorian ancestors published a book detailing his grand tour of the East in 1843. His trip included steaming the Nile, a camel ride from Alexandria to Jerusalem and being quarantined in a small pox hospital. It took him months.

Rosie’s Tour

of the East

54


I am gl a d to r ep or t tha t

As manager of the Association it falls upon me to audit our members. We need to know that unlike some so called woodland burial grounds, our green cemeteries are running tight ships. They must know and record exactly where every grave is, keep accurate and safely stored records and have future proofed their sites against personal managerial disaster. Respectable, descent housekeeping basically.

This is what I found at the five member sites I squeezed in to my outing :Herongate Wood on the outskirts of Brentwood is a well

established site, more akin to a conventional cemetery as they allow flat gravestones and the ground is more highly maintained than the ‘wilder’ members. Boy was it colourful, especially the older, established areas where the whole hillside was bright yellow with daffodils that families had planted on graves. Great facility buildings and good to see clear terms regarding grief litter posted on their notice board. Looking south I was surprised at how close the Kentish North Downs looked across the Thames estuary.>>

all of our East Anglian burial sites are fabu l o u s

My recent ‘eastern tour’ was less exotic, an inspection of the East Anglian natural burial grounds who are members of the Association of Natural Burial Grounds’ ANBG; it only took two days, Postponed by the now infamous ‘Beast from the East’. My rescheduled timing couldn’t have been better, dry roads, unbroken sunshine and lots of interesting birdlife on the move.

55


>>Further East, deeper into Essex I arrived at Crouch Valley Meadow. Far smaller and with a more cosy, private feel. A well-controlled burial site with no litter problem and a rather elegant, disabled accessible compost loo which looked more like a shepherds hut than a porta-loo. Back at the farmhouse Sam was keen to show me her ‘how to’ file and we discussed the contingencies she has in place, which as a sole operator makes her project more vulnerable should something terrible happen to her. The site is nestled between her vineyards and the tidal reaches of the river Crouch, charming views down to the water.

Crouch Valley Meadow

An overnight stay up the coast at Lowestoft meant I was ready for an early morning visit to one of the country’s newest NBGs, Gunton Wood Burial Park, a charity owned community project. This large site was a hive of activity with volunteers busy replacing a few of their 5000 new trees that didn’t make it through last year. The landscape style they have chosen provides plots within intimate woodland glades, families have the choice of five at present although the site is so big it will be operational for many decades. A large team of staff and trustees ensure that their systems are understood by many. In addition to their mapping system they have a unique location system where every grave has an etched engineering brick placed discreetly at its head. Strict rules, a tidy, safe site.>>

56

gunton wood burial park - a charity owned project

crouch valley meadow and


Gunton Wood Burial Park

Crouch Valley Meadow

gunton wood community project

Gunton Wood Burial Park

57


58


This burial ground is a rare beast, one that actually has the option of burials within existing ancient woodland. The springy bark-chip path winds between the trees which were full of birdsong and frolicking squirrels, a very lovely option. The rest of the site is being established as new woodland or managed as meadow. Under construction was a fabulous octagonal ceremonial hall which didn’t look too far from completion. Every grave here is marked by a silver metal disk mounted on a length of rebar, knocked down flush to the ground, the disk etched with the relevant references. I was pleased to see that Andrew organises training days for staff to ensure that his team has a complete grasp of the system.>>

norfolk bluebell wood

>>I drove north west to Norfolk Bluebell Wood to meet with Andrew, the gutsy farmer who I discovered is investing even more into his project since it opened a couple of years ago. I have not visited this county since I was a child holidaying on the Broads, I had no idea how many windmills there were, felt very Dutch. The wildlife highlight was to watch a male Hen Harrier hunting.

59


old park meadow burial site

>>Then homeward via the newest site in the region, Old Park Meadow. Only a few minutes from the Bishop’s Stortford junction of the M11. With quick access into north London I expect this fabulous site will do really well. Delyse, my host, is obviously so excited with her new role and eagerly demonstrated their exemplary administrative systems. The building will be the envy of every operator, sparkling, bright, airy with a state of the art sound system and a view through double height ceiling across the burial ground. Another huge site that will be operational for decades. The highlight for me was the duel greeting of two skylarks who rose either side of us as we walked around the meadow’s circular walk, hovering low enough for me to easily make out their tail and undercarriage plumage, they fly high and beyond focus on my native South Downs, a very special ending to my easterly excursion. BE AWARE. Like funeral directors, natural/green/woodland cemeteries are not all alike. Several around the UK including one in Essex (never a member!) have got into trouble and when taken in by receivers or new owners have been found to have basically no idea where all their residents are! Not only is their administration chaotic or non-existent but their ground management and discipline is lax, allowing families a free for all regarding memorialisation, bench placement and grief litter.

I am glad to report that all our East Anglians are fabulous. Rosie

60


Eco-Friendly Credentials

Our Promise

100% Environmentally Friendly

Whether you are considering your own arrangements for the future, or you are trying to choose a suitable coffin for a loved one, we at Feet First Coffins know how important it is that the choice you make is the right one.

We adopt an enlightened approach to today’s changing attitudes towards conventional practices by offering an alternative to the sometimesunsatisfactory choices available. We encourage people to have the coffin they really want and hope that by helping you have the personalised coffin or casket of your choice, we make a difference to you and your family. People are as individual in death as they are in life and a personalised coffin can pay tribute to the person who has died. Biodegradable Construction We use only solid pine wood in our construction of all coffins and caskets offered, individually handcrafted and designed to return to the earth naturally. Being fully biodegradable, they are perfect for eco-friendly natural burials and green cremations. Sourced from sustainable forests and lined using 100% non-bleached natural fair-trade cotton with meadow grass hay padding when requested, handles are made from either natural manilla rope (hemp rope optional) or pine handrails. Any paints used are natural chalk based and waxes used are Natural Beeswax based.

If you are organising a funeral for a member of your family, or a much-loved friend, you will want their farewell to be personal to them, yet this does not need to be at an overly expensive cost to you. Our promise is to provide a service and variety of coffin and casket choices that surpass all the desires and expectations of the bereaved.

Supply to your funeral Whether you are arranging the funeral directly or via a Funeral home or undertakers, a Feet First Coffin or casket is always an option, even if we are not listed as a supplier to your current funeral home, we will be able to arrange a direct delivery to them.

Feet First Coffins

www.feetfirstcoffins.co.uk

11 Rycroft, Furzton, Milton Keynes, MK4 1AH UK Tel: 01908 506768 Email: info@feetfirstcoffins.co.uk

Contact Feet First Coffins for more information about our eco-friendly coffins or appointments.


64


Avoiding the

SUBJECT there is a slow change occurring in the funeral industry My name is Charlotte Knight and I have been a film producer for the past 19 years. I’ve had an academic and recreational interest in death for as long as I can remember which has been fuelled by experiencing grief first hand on multiple occasions. I have experienced the shortfalls in the system and feel passionate about the change that is happening. I am currently transitioning into working in the funeral industry and feel that this has given me a perspective from both sides of the fence. I am an advocate for Home funerals and natural burial. There is a slow change occurring in the funeral industry, if you are reading this article you are already part of that change, from the death positive movement to death cafes there is a wider encouragement to engage with death. The stumbling block for this movement is that it is niche, mostly contained to those of us already comfortable with death, and it is fighting against the assumption that the general public will avoid the subject of death at all costs.

A recent article in the Guardian let everyone know that death had suddenly ‘got cool’ and went on to talk about the death positive movement in a way that was devoid of the true meaning. Describing Caitlyn Doughty as looking like ‘a lost member of the Addams Family’, listing alternative funeral practises and coffee table books demonstrated the article’s focus on the aesthetics of death as a cultural trend rather than any actual engagement with our own mortality. The general public may enjoy skull print clothing or Day of the Dead artwork but are they actually engaging in contemplation of their own mortality.>>

65


66


the lion king was the first time we realised our parents would die >>We are presented with a culture that is both death phobic and yet happy to have death present as fashion and entertainment, from fairytales to films the trope of death is played out over and over throughout our lives, for many of my generation The Lion King was the first time we realised our parents would die. We are comfortable with a detached version of death but still so unprepared for when it greets us on our doorstep. The mainstream funeral industry enables a level of sanitisation and detachment from the body that caring for our dead is now a service almost exclusively performed by others, so much so that when a husband decides to keep his wife at home to look after her body it makes television news. Death is still presented by the media as a taboo subject of fascination rather than a part of everyone’s life. But what is there for those that are interested and willing to engage with death, I conducted a small survey recently and found that of my social group 80% said they were comfortable talking about death but only 6% knew what a home funeral was. I googled my local funeral homes and asked if they would be able to help me if I wanted to keep my Grandfather’s body at home, he passed many years ago and wouldn’t have minded being part of such a task, and the responses varied from total confusion at the request to the suggestion that it would only be possible with embalming.

This is the information that the majority of people will receive if they are in that position so even with the most open minded family the industry will only allow them access to the current funeral system at a time where they are likely unable to spend time researching further options. The current unsatisfactory system doesn’t offer time or space for engagement with the body or more natural approaches to care of the dead, it fits grief into a template that stretches many financially, that is flawed in it’s approach to grief.>>

67


>>We need to get greater penetration into the psyche of the general public, freeing them from the Victorian tradition that still dominates. Towards the end of the 1900’s a shift in culture meant that the body became to be viewed as unhygienic and everyone breathed a sigh of relief when it was swiftly removed and this view still dictates our funerary process. Every culture has traditional approaches to caring for their dead and yet ours is a bizarre mixture of this 18th century way of thinking and our 21st century cleansed and medicalised approach. But even within the current death positive movement a majority of the more open minded funerals are not looking to our own traditions but rather assimilating those from other cultures. This appropriation from other cultures is problematic in itself, we need to look back at the ways in which we used to care for our dead and revive those rituals rather than taking from others. Burial in white linen, the practise of keeping the body at home, the family being involved in the laying out and shrouding, family gathering with the dead body still present, these were all traditional in England and every individual will have their own rich death culture to draw from, it’s just a case of looking for it. Respect Everybody Shrouds

68

Charlotte Knight


The UK‘s Leading Direct Cremation Plan

The plan for people that positively, definitely, don‘t want a funeral... Request a free information pack at: plans@simplicita.co.uk or phone 0800 689 0343 or visit www.simplicita.co.uk and www.nofuneral.co.uk Our service is also available without a pre-arrangement

Our Plan is administered by Ecclesiastical Planning Services Ltd, who are registered with the Funeral Planning Authority.


Matters

Music

72


article by Carol Waters Celebrant Ever given any thought to what music you would like at your funeral? Would you choose music that was poignant or uplifting, music related to specific events, personality, style or a specific era? Nowadays, it would appear that anything goes! Pop songs, humour and sporting themes sit alongside traditional hymns and classical choices, a mixture of all genre is acceptable, as is the choice to have no music or even, dare I suggest, a live performance. I feel that music is the most emotive element of any funeral, even more so than the spoken word, it can portray feelings that can’t be expressed and it can be incredibly cathartic.

most emotional element at a funeral

music is the most

73


music creates a

In more recent years there has been a significant change in the types of music requested which reflects an increasing trend towards people opting to ‘celebrate’ a life rather than ‘mourn’ a death, arguably, hymns are out and contemporary, modern music is in! I would suggest that a deviation from the more traditional choices like ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ or ‘Nimrod’ can set the tone and personalise a ceremony, making it meaningful and unique. ‘My Heart Will Go On’ by Celine Dion, is debatably, the ultimate ballad because it expresses eternal love, it is both sad and beautiful and a poignant reminder that love does go on. ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ by Queen, is an iconic song but one, that possibly brings, an apathetic edge to any funeral, a song that asks ‘are we ready for this’, well, is anybody, ever, truly ready for a funeral? A little inappropriate maybe but a popular choice, never the less.

74

strong, powerful, and emotional connection

>>Music can be played at cremations, burials, interment or scattering of ashes, memorial services and at a wake or gathering.

When life seems

https://youtu.be/rY0WxgSXdEE

with the audience


https://youtu.be/SJUhlRoBL8M

https://youtu.be/D9ioyEvdggk

s pretty rotten

There are several points during a funeral ceremony at which music can be played. During the procession, the departure and between readings and eulogies. There are no rules and no regulations; Debussy’s ‘Clair de Lune’ would have once seen mourners reaching for their tissues, nowadays, it could well be Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and there is nothing to say that happy songs aren’t appropriate! ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of life’, from Monty Python is usually amongst the top ten when looking at polls. On the internet you will find multiple sites presenting ideas for funeral music from every genre. >>

75


>>Helpful or not they provide infinite possibilities, choices and information. In my experience, finding just the right piece of music can be stressful, difficult, overwhelming and quite a challenge for some people. A Celebrant, Minister or Funeral Director can always offer help and guidance but ultimately the decision lies with the person(s) organising the funeral, no pressure then! Planning your own funeral music makes it easier and less stressful for your family.

Top tips for choosing music for a funeral:•Look at music the deceased enjoyed, it often reflects who they were and talk to family and friends as they may have different ideas. •Utilise the internet but proceed with caution, as the information and choices can overwhelm. •Be mindful of when it is best to play each piece, thus setting the tone of the occasion. •Review each song, listen to it a few times to ensure the lyrics are appropriate and in context. •Think about planning your own funeral and making your own choices, let your family and friends know. •Always remember that there are no rights or wrongs, just what is right for you and your family. •Never forget that the music chosen will always remind those attending of the funeral.

76


77


"Caring for you and your Family is at the heart of what we do."

Malvern Office: 01684 563983 Worcester Office: 01905 616222

www.phillipsfuneralservices.co.uk

Š su.reed 2018

Traditional Funerals Natural Burials & Green Funerals Pre-plan Funerals


Firefighter

to Funeral Director It was on a family holiday to Bournemouth in the mid 1960’s when my parents took me to a fire station open day. Soon the fire engine, with its bell ringing and blue lights flashing came dashing into the station yard to put out the fire that had been set in an oil tray.

my arms - instinctively my three months of intensive recruit training kicked in and I began CPR until my colleagues arrived to give me assistance.

On arriving for the night shift that evening we learned that the child and her mother had passed away. No matter how much they try to teach you, nothing prepares you for that first fatal incident. It was the harshest of introductions to death and to make matters worse, it was I knew then that this was the job for me a baby. I spent the next few weeks strugand so, on the 15th June 1981, I became gling to come to terms with my experirecruit Fireman Green with Great- ence. er Manchester Fire Service. Just four months later, I was questioning wheth- What if that had been my child or my nephew or my niece? I couldn’t help er this really was the job for me. myself until one night lying awake, not It was a cold autumn morning in Octo- for the first time, I thought I can’t do this ber, at 0755hrs, the ‘bells went down’, anymore, I can’t provide a professional persons reported to a housing estate service without getting emotionally inin Manchester’s Chorlton-Cum-Har- volved. That is when it hit me, I was prody area. Seconds later we were on our viding a service to people in desperate way and just a few moments into our need. >> journey control were onto us, ‘Delta four five, this is a confirmed persons reported with at least two persons involved’. The adrenaline was really pumping now. Within seconds of arriving, an 18 month old baby had been thrust into

80


nothing prepares

81


>>No matter how harsh it sounds, it wasn’t my child or nephew or niece, it was someone who needed my professional service. Fast forward 21 years and a friend asked me if I could drive his hearse, his regular driver had to have a hip replaced and so my introduction to the funeral service was made. I spent the next ten years or so driving the hearse or limousine on my days off and meeting quite a few funeral directors when I did hearse or car hires. Because my friend was a small family business he and his father were able to provide a very personalised service but, visiting some of the larger companies was a real eye opener for me. Whilst they all provided a professional service it all seemed very impersonal and felt like a ‘production line’. I couldn’t help but think, surely, there has to be a better way. It was something that was to play on my mind for several years to come.

82

Shortly after I retired from the Fire Service in early 2012, my friend’s father sadly passed away suddenly. This meant that my friend was unable to take any time off at all and would often work for 24 hrs straight, and so, he asked if I would consider becoming a funeral director with him. It wasn’t something I had to think about, after all, and it may seem odd to say, but being in the funeral service isn’t that different from being a firefighter. You are providing a specialised service to people at a very traumatic time of their life, people who need empathy, understanding and guidance, all the time remaining emotionally detached from the situation in order to provide the best possible service. Helping people has been a lifelong dedication for me, it was a simple decision to make. My experience of dealing with the public in the Fire Service meant that dealing with bereaved families wasn’t a difficult transition to make so much of my


empathy,understanding and guidance

efforts were concentrated on learning the paperwork and procedural side of affairs. My role as a station officer in the Fire Service meant that I was no stranger to paperwork and I picked up the role fairly quickly. It wasn’t long before the nagging thought at the back of my mind began niggling away probing me to ask myself ‘How can I provide a better, more personal service to grieving families? It wasn’t so much a light bulb moment, more a gradual dawning as an idea formed and after constantly mulling things over, it occurred to me there didn’t seem to be a service available for families to arrange their own family led funeral (often referred to as a DIY funeral). Sure, there is information out there but it’s difficult to find so why not make it available in one place with the assistance of an experienced funeral director?

It was as simple as that – the decision was made and earlier this year I launched my website aimed at doing just that. I guess in some ways it’s a fairly new concept but in others it’s going back 100 years or so, back to how things used to be done, when loved ones were kept in the parlour and looked after by the family until the undertaker came, usually the local garage or taxi firm owner, and the deceased was taken to be buried. Whilst things have changed dramatically over the years the concept remains the same. We can and perhaps should look after our loved one in death as we did in life. I firmly believe this is a better way of caring for our loved ones after they depart.

Andrew Green Family Arranged Funerals 0161 427 4516 Mob: 07483 825883 www.familyarrangedfunerals.co.uk

83


88


Thanks to Martin Carette for this article to which has been added the Natural Death Centre’s Funeral wishes template. Funeral Wishes – What, Why and How? Deciding and making known what you would like to happen to your body after you die and the type of funeral service you would prefer are your ‘funeral wishes’. A lot of people who have the task of organising a funeral are not confident about making even the most fundamental decisions. These include whether to bury or cremate the body of the deceased and whether or not the funeral service should be religious. >>

Done with my Body..

What I Want

89


The benefits of making advance funeral wishes are clear cut and fall into two categories. On an altruistic level, they ease the burden on family at a stressful time by removing uncertainty and giving them peace of mind knowing they are doing the right thing. It can avert disputes among family and friends about what to do when opinion is split. Arguably, a more important reason is self-determination and your own peace of mind. Your wishes may also take into account any environmental or financial concerns you might have. Other aspects can also be included setting the tone and content of your funeral service with how you would like your life to be commemorated. Many funerals will, by default, be carried out in keeping with family tradition or to conform to established religious practices. However, for those who are able to choose, there are an increasing number of options including, Green or Natural Burial, direct cremation or burial followed by a separate memorial service. The increasing number of different options mean it is becoming more important than ever to record and convey your wishes especially if you would prefer something less conventional. Funeral wishes tend to be associated with funeral plans but the two are not inextricably linked and it seems there is a distinct need to provide ways to convey funeral wishes for those for whom a funeral plan, for whatever reason, is inappropriate or undesirable.

90


If you are one of those people, what are your options? 1. Talking about funeral wishes with loved ones, while not essential (some people prefer to be secretive), should be encouraged but not relied upon as the definitive guide. The spoken word can easily be misinterpreted or forgotten and without documentary evidence, it is possible for disputes to occur. 2.For your funeral wishes to be recorded in a written or printed format or stored electronically online. Taking the latter first. In keeping with the technological advances of the past decade there are an increasing number of services which offer the capability of storing funeral wishes online and they are often linked to a marketplace of other services and products such as will writing. As with most things, there are both positive and negative considerations. The wishes can usually be easily updated but a (hopefully) long lasting affiliation with the provider is required that comes with concerns about security issues and the longevity of the business itself. Accessing the wishes at the appropriate time, in some instances, isn’t necessarily straightforward and, of course, requires use of a suitable device connected to the internet by someone who has access codes to hand.>>

91


>>This leaves recording funeral wishes in the form of a typed or written document. Paper is far from being obsolete and safely stored, yet easily accessible documents are both an efficient and practical way of conveying funeral wishes at the appropriate time. There are several possibilities. They can be drawn up by a solicitor and incorporated into a ‘letter of wishes’ which can accompany a Last Will and Testament. There are also a number of other services and products that provide the opportunity to record funeral wishes in a paper format, often in the form of completed paper questionnaires where appropriate boxes are either ticked or completed in handwritten form. While these documents do the job, they can look untidy and have a great deal of superfluous content. Martin’s After Dying Wishes is a service that records funeral wishes in a paper format in a way that addresses these shortcomings. Choices are submitted online or as a completed paper questionnaire and are then incorporated into an unambiguous and personalised statement. A high quality document is posted back for safe keeping.

The NDC’s home printable version follows (plus a death plan) – to help get discussions going if nothing else! Whatever method you use to record your funeral wishes, you need to bear in mind that they are not legally binding. However, in most circumstances the person(s) responsible for arranging your funeral is likely to adhere to them as closely as possible.

92


For a copy of this form and our death plan please contact us on 01962 712690, by email: contact@naturaldeath.org.uk or visit our website www.naturaldeath.org.uk

93


44


45


98


Dad’s Day So, where to begin? If you are reading my story you may have recently lost someone who wanted a natural burial, or maybe you want a natural burial and want to know what it entails and how to go about it. There isn’t a lot of information to be found from the usual channels and you could spend hours trawling through the internet searching for answers. I know how you feel… as that was me at the beginning of March 2018.

Here’s my story… Without going into too much detail, my Dad passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly on Tuesday 6th March, aged 76. I was out walking the dog when my brother rang the house, my wife took the message and told me when I walked through the back door. I was paralysed! I can remember just standing there, dog lead in hand, completely unable to move! I was probably only there for a few minutes but it seemed like hours. Although I couldn’t physically move my brain was going at a million miles an hour, trying to process the information I had just received and decide what I should do next. I went straight over to my Dad’s flat to be with my brother and deal with the formalities, talking to the police and waiting for the Coroner’s undertakers to come and take Dad away. I was still numb to it but what finally made me break down were people saying to me ‘sorry for your loss’ and I was thinking ‘I’m 44 and people are saying to me sorry for your loss’.>>

99


‘Put me in a wicker basket and put me in a hole in a field’ he used to say >>Before Dad died he told my brother and I, many times, that he wanted a natural burial. ‘Put me in a wicker basket and put me in a hole in a field’ he used to say. We were like, ‘yeah whatever Dad’ thinking ‘you’re our Dad, we’re going to treat you with respect and pull out all the stops, the full works’. However, going through Dad’s paperwork and personal effects, we soon came to realise that he had put nothing financially aside to help with his wishes; in fact he had left nothing! No will or savings. So my brother and I were like, ‘right! We are going to have to pay for this ourselves! How are we going to do that? I began searching the internet for natural burial sites and local funeral directors. Hours I spent searching and requesting information. I found a natural burial site near Bath where Dad lived and died, contacted them and got a price. A burial plot, burial registration and grave digging services, came in at £1705. We thought this was reasonable but we had to get Dad there from the Coroner’s in Bristol. To cut a long story short, all I needed was someone to collect Dad from the Coroner and take him to the burial site. In all the brochures I had been sent there was a charge for collecting the deceased, taking them into their care and then taking them to their resting place, the price averaged out at about £700. I phoned five funeral directors and told them exactly what I needed, basically their logistic service for £700. I was told by EVERY SINGLE ONE that the only way they could help was if I paid for their ‘simple funeral service package’ which came in at £2000! Bringing the cost up to £3705 not including Celebrant, order of service and other expenses.>>

We didn’t have that kind of money…!

100


101


My wife suggested that we do it ourselves >>This all happened just a few days after Dad had died so it was all still raw and my head felt like it was going to explode. My wife suggested that we do it ourselves, I remember saying ‘What! What we are going to do? Put Dad in the back of a van!!!!’ and she was like, ‘well yeah!’ ‘No, no, no we can’t do that!’ I told her. So actually, it was my wife who had the idea first but just had bad timing. Then we thought we would go half way with Dad’s wishes. We could sprinkle ashes on the natural burial meadow for about £450. But then we would have to pay for a cremation, about £900, then add on £2000 for funeral directors, so even that came to about £3350 plus other expenses. We still didn’t have that kind of money..! But it was slightly cheaper and it kind of was what Dad wanted. We got to thinking; if Dad wanted this type of funeral then he really should have put something aside for it. Death stirs up lots of emotions. Then my wife hit the nail on the head. She said to me, “the natural burial thing is so your Dad (she was right) but the whole formality of black hearse, sombre mood, slow procession, that isn’t him at all” (right again). “He wanted to be buried in a field, so you need to do that really”.

Enter Rosie from the Natural Death Centre.

I e-mailed her basically saying that we wanted to give Dad a natural burial but the extortionate quotes from funeral directors was making it financially impossible, please could she help in any way. And she did. She explained that doing a DIY funeral (direct it yourself) is a great way to demonstrate how much you love and respect someone. How in 18 years of talking families through the process she had never had a family come back to her with regrets, not once.>>

102


103


What better way to show our Dad that we loved him, than his two sons going to collect him? ...in any vehicle we could get our hands on, carry him to his burial plot and lower him in to his final resting place. The way Rosie explained it just made perfect sense and I am forever grateful. So my next task was to get everyone else on board, especially my brother. I was so excited about the idea of doing it ourselves that I phoned my wife and said we were going to do a DIY funeral, she reminded me that she had suggested that ages ago but yeah it was what Dad would have wanted.

104


I then went to my Mum’s house to get her thoughts on it (they had separated years ago but still stayed in touch). She agreed, it was a brilliant idea. My uncle was there and immediately said ‘I’d be honoured to have your Dad in the back of my car; I’ll help you get him there’. We went out to his car and put the seats down, I laid in the back to see if we could get a coffin in and discovered you can get a 6ft one in the back of a Vauxhall Insignia, no problem. Because he died suddenly, his Doctor wanted a post mortem done. This gave us a bit of time to play with, but after you have read this you will have sufficient time as you will know what you have to do.>>

105


Here’s how you do it…. Get all your family on board, the more the merrier. Rosie said that doing it yourselves greatly helps the bereavement process and she is right. You are so occupied in achieving what your loved one wanted, you are all busy organising it, you don’t have time to mourn. That may sound wrong but keep thinking of what you are going to achieve, how happy they would be knowing what you are doing for them. Of course you will still be sad but read to the end and see.

Find a burial site near to you.

There are a few around the UK but not nearly enough! Rates vary from site to site. Dad’s was one of the more expensive ones but he loved Bath so we chose there. Book a date for your loved one’s day (sounds better than funeral).

Get a coffin.

There are many coffin makers out there. All shapes and sizes and designs, you can even send in your own pictures to be printed on the coffin. Phone the place where their body is and ask them to measure height and width. You’ll be surprised how much people grow when they are dead, Dad measured 6ft when he was in the mortuary as all the muscles and joints relax plus you don’t have gravity pushing down on you. Coffins come fully assembled but plainly wrapped, so make sure you have enough space to store it. Let the burial ground have the exact coffin sizes so they can dig the grave the right size.

Sort logistics out.

Find a family member or friend with a big enough car or van, or hire one. If you have trouble with that, phone me. If you’re not too far away, we’ll come and do it for you, just cover the cost of the vehicle hire, fuel and a bit extra for our time and we’ll get them to their final resting place.

106


107


Contact the mortuary.

>> Tell them the time and date you ideally want to come and collect. This was a tricky part for us as we were incorrectly told by the Coroner’s office that we would have to put Dad in his coffin which to be honest freaked us out a bit. This is not the case at all. The mortuary manger was superb; he couldn’t have been more helpful. We explained our concerns and he said ‘don’t worry about it. We’ll collect the coffin outside from you, put your Dad inside it, screw the lid on and bring him out to you, don’t worry about a thing, we’ll take care of it.’ And they did! They actually fully support DIY funeral’s, they love them. We did give him a thank you card with a donation to the hospital, something to show our appreciation and to pave the way for other people who want to do the same.

Go get you loved one.

This was a very special journey for us. There was me, my brother and my uncle in a car with an empty coffin in the back,(cover it over so as not to cause any upset) on our way to collect our Dad. Taking him on his final journey to the place where he wanted to be, I will never forget it. Even the journey from the mortuary to the burial site with Dad in his coffin felt so natural, so right. We weren’t sad, or freaked out. It’s hard to explain.

Carry them to the graveside.

This again was a special moment. Our celebrant had a large speaker that was attached to his phone. We had chosen the music for Dad’s day as you would any other service, we chose music that celebrated his personality. Walking from the car to the graveside we had Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. (You do not have to put the coffin on your shoulders and some burial grounds have a special cart).

Service at Graveside.

Once again a special moment. Rosie had suggested that people could write personal messages on the coffin before it is lowered, which I thought was a really good idea. It allows people to get close to the one they are saying goodbye to, unlike a normal funeral where the coffin is perched up on a pedestal and everyone is sat miles away in pews. We played ‘Wish you were here’ by Pink Floyd while his friends and family signed the coffin, read what other people had written, chatted to each other around Dad; it had an air of peace, happiness, was not sad or mournful at all.

Poems, passages and a toast.

Dad dabbled in Paganism so my wife found some lovely Pagan poems and passages that were read out, and my brother and I read out things about our childhood. We had brought a few bottles of Brandy with plastic shot glasses and raised a glass before we lowered him in.

108


NATURAL BURIAL WOOD High on the Berkshire Downs overlooking peaceful vistas

Sheepdrove organic Farm

eco centre

Sheepdrove road, Lambourn, berkShire rg17 7uu inFo@Sheepdrove.com

01488 674747 www.Sheepdrove.com


Laying them to rest.

After all the poems, passages, signing and toast we lowered Dad in. None of us had done this before, but Sally, the Custodian of the site, was there throughout to guide us, she was brilliant. She orchestrated the lowering so he went in squarely and at an even pace to avoid tipping etc., all to the sound of the Star Wars theme tune, he loved Star Wars. It was the most amazing day. I know that may sound odd but we were so happy with what we had achieved that it took the sadness away. We often go back to the meadow and sit there, feeling the warm sun on our face, the bird’s singing and watch the Ewe’s with their young lamb’s grazing in the field to maintain it. It is fantastic. Funeral Directors basically charge you the earth to make phone calls and send e-mails. Doing it yourself is time consuming and potentially frustrating, chasing people up, but you save a fortune. It will consume you, I thought of nothing else from when I got up to when I went to bed. It was totally worth it. Dad’s Day inspired me so much that I wanted to help other people achieve what we managed that day, which is why when Rosie asked me to write this article I didn’t hesitate. It inspired me so much that I actually wanted to start my own natural burial meadow but looking into it proved too financially demanding. So, if there are any land owners in Wiltshire reading this who would like to help me give other people the sense of achievement and peace that I experienced, then please get in contact. I think I have covered everything. I hope this article has helped those of you who have taken the time to read it. You CAN do it. It is daunting to begin with, but as it takes momentum and you have your loved one’s day like I did, you will never regret it. I have given Rosie my permission to publish my contact details, so if there is ANY part of the process that you need reassurance on, or more information, or even help with certain parts of it, then I am a phone call or e-mail away and I will be more than happy to help you. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Please get in touch and go for it!

Regards - Mat Hodge mat_hodge@yahoo.co.uk

110


More to Death Edition 12  

Another edition of The Natural Death Centre's magazine - the only funeral magazine that cares about the general public.

More to Death Edition 12  

Another edition of The Natural Death Centre's magazine - the only funeral magazine that cares about the general public.