One of the last taboos?
Death is one of those subjects we all have an opinion on where others are concerned but most of us don’t want to think about our own. It seems so final. So making sure we have a Will and leaving instructions for our funeral are to be avoided.
As for talking about it, no way, as it can be a very emotional and stressful subject. And we’ve all read stories about people fighting over money and assets once you’ve gone, assuming you’ve got anything left to leave to anyone. It’s one of the last taboos.
We all reach a stage in life where we may find ourselves attending more funerals than weddings. I have been to four funerals in the last three years and there were three others I didn’t attend. Six members of my family have shuffled off this mortal coil and my mother’s best friend.
All were elderly, so not unexpected, though losing my father last year clearly had more impact than my 3 remaining grandparents, cousin and a great Aunt. We are extraordinarily long lived in our family. But now that ‘buffer’ of having an older generation ‘waiting for God’ has gone.
One funeral was very religious as one of my grandmothers was an evangelical Christian. The others were secular, my father’s funeral being conducted by my sister, brother in law and uncle at the crematorium as his views were essentially atheist. No cars, not a lot of flowers, no hymns, though we enjoyed some of his favourite music, like Alligator Crawl by Fats Waller as we left the building.
And a wake at his favourite pub to celebrate his life. Some of his ashes are sitting in 2 little plastic urns, one each end of my mantlepiece. The rest has been buried in a garden as he was a keen gardener and a nice memorial has been placed at the Hospice where he died.
For me, that leaves my mother as the eldest member of my family and she lives with me. Fortunately we are able to talk about death and she has firm ideas about what I am to do when she ‘pegs it’, ‘kicks the bucket’ or ‘passes over’, whatever euphemism you want to use for dying. She has been very succinct about it. No funeral, no fuss, just shove me in the ground somewhere.
She has no religious belief but also doesn’t want the rigmarole of choosing between a burial or cremation, flowers or not, hymns or eulogy said over her biological remains. And she doesn’t want to leave me to deal with our relations either, most of whom she doesn’t get on with anyway.
Apart from the traditional procedures, what is left to accommodate someone like my Mum and I would say myself? Funerals are for the living really, rather than the dead. It is usually to show respect, commemorate a life, part of the grieving process. You may think we’re selfish to take that out of the equation but without the dead you wouldn’t have the ceremony in the first place so we’ll choose how we want to be disposed of.
We want to have a natural burial. James said to me “I thought all burials were natural”, which is essentially true. In this case ‘natural’ means in natural surroundings, not in a formal burial ground such as a cemetery. The nearest natural burial ground to us is a 10 acre site that combines woodland, a wildflower meadow and is being developed as a nature reserve.
There are areas within the site for people to be buried with no markers allowed, though there is an identification system, so you don’t get lost! Only bio-degradable coffins can be used or something like a hessian shroud.
You do not need to go through a firm of Funeral Directors (though you can do it that way), you can arrange the burial direct with the Burials Manager. Anyone can be buried there and there are areas set aside for pets, from hamsters to horses, with their humans too, eventually, if that’s your inclination.
As they say “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”. Well this is returning your biological ‘suit’ back to the Earth. And I suppose in modern day terms it’s also eco-friendly. At the risk of upsetting someone, it’s just another form of composting, adding nutrients to the soil.
This week we are visiting the site for the first time and in part two I’ll post about how you go about it and what the process involves.