Thoughts from The Green Funeral Company
Sharpham Meadow Natural Burial Ground
All Souls Day Ritual
Wednesday November 2nd 2016 7pm
A simple fiery ritual to remember our dead.
Open to all
Funeral Director of the Year
The Good Funeral Guide
As human beings, we look for meaning everywhere, superimposing it over everything that comes into our lives. The Australian aborigines believe that the world was vocalised into existence, literally sung into creation, and that the song needs to be continued so that reality can flourish. We are no different, giving identities to our household objects, cursing our computer when it misbehaves or urging our spluttering car toward home. We see patterns where, without us, there are none. A world that responds to our awakening gaze, and freezes again as we look away.
As undertakers, we work in an area where meanings blur and identities become less certain. For us, a body is just that; a body. Something awkward and heavy to be treated practically between us, to be lifted and moved, dressed or washed. But when they are in the presence of those who loved them, they become people again, suffused with personality and history, mute vessels for love and longing, themselves but changed. It is to witness this change that we gently lead the living toward, no more certain as to what it means than they, only sure that it is as important as it is painful.
The picture above is of one of our lowering straps, part of our meagre collection of professional equipment. We have two of them, simple strips of furniture webbing that we bought thirteen years ago in a haberdashery shop in Cornwall. You can see the colouration of the soil on them, their history stained into the edge. The red thread marks the midpoint. It rests over the centre of the grave, a guide for when we stretch them over before the coffin is laid on top.
They are just material, yet for me they are one of the most powerfully resonant things I possess. They have lowered old men and children, people whose deaths were a longed for mercy and those ripped from their familyʼs arms. They have held mothers leaving behind shellshocked children, people who have done terrible things, and those who have had terrible things done to them. They have slipped through mine and Claireʼs hands a thousand times, and the handʼs of grandmothers and fathers, lovers and friends. They are tinged with our blood cut by the edges of coffins, stained with soil and mud and grass and sweat, and of course, with tears. The tears of people doing the bravest, hardest, saddest thing of their lives, gently lowering their beloved down into a grave.
They fit into a spread hand, yet reach into eternity. Not just bits of woven cloth, but portals, ladders to another world, or at least to the end of this one. At times they appear like mandalas, or spiraling universes. They seem to possess a patient wisdom, to have personality. We certainly have shared history.
I wonder what part they will play in my own end, whether their frayed edges will still be strong enough by then. In my secret heart, I know they will, that they are an umbilical cord reaching out into the womb of my own death, raveling me nearer.
Hopefully, when my time has come I will be burnt on a hill. If I am, them perhaps one should be wrapped around me, the other to journey with Claire to who knows where.
These decisions are not ours to make, and maybe they will slip through the hands of my family as they lower me down into the ground. Where ever I am going, I have confidence that the straps will see me safely to the end. They always have.
"More To Death" is the first edition of an excellent magazine from the Natural Death Centre.
Click below to read;
Please embed it on your facebook page, tweet it or whatever, let's spread the word good people.
The Good Funeral Guide has a daily blog and it is one of the most interesting thought provoking blogs on the internet. Check it out here
It can be incredibly useful to talk to a counsellor after the funeral, we recommend Nicky Bell her insight and wisdom and ability to hold people in crisis is beautiful.
We will pay for the first session with her.
Her telephone number is 07859 832 860
Some of you may remember Nicky has worked with us in the past. She now runs her own counselling practice, and we are proud to welcome her back as an associate.
We moved to Dartington hall in January 2009
We moved our home to Totnes, and our place of work to Dartington
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Dartington Hall, it has, since the Thirties, been a pioneering charity nurturing ideas to address pressing problems. It's different departments work together for the advancement of the arts, sustainability and social justice by inspiring, hosting and experimenting with promising ideas and initiatives.
Totnes is home to the Transition Towns Initiative, an incredibly vibrant environmental and social movement that is busy re-imagining our communities in the face of the twin challenges of diminishing oil and gas supplies and climate change. This concept has in the past two years gone global, with towns everywhere implementing an Energy Descent Action Plan. It is the opposite of apocalyptic panic, and we urge you to get involved. We will be.
Ethical pre paid Funeral Plans
For several years we have felt that pre-paid funeral plans, and in particular the way they are aggressively marketed was an aspect of funerals that we wanted to avoid. Attempts to make you feel guilty at ‘burdening' your children with the cost, as well as a narrowing down of your choices, not to mention where on earth your money ends up, were not things we felt comfortable with. However, their popularity in this country is growing, and people keep requesting them.
Enter Dr John Mallatrat, green undertaking pioneer, founder of Peace Funerals in Sheffield and someone we regard as a professional father figure. John came up with an idea that elegantly solved all of our concerns. He has created the UK's, possibly the worlds, first ethically invested pre-payment funeral plans. This means that it is the first pre-payment scheme that guarantees the money you pay into a plan is not invested in weapons, oil, pornography or anything that knowingly creates social or environmental problems. This might sound obvious, but in the murky unaccountable world of modern capitalism and all of the problems that its implosion has created, this is radical, prescient and maybe even be a forerunner of some new morally transparent, global financial model.
As for our worries that pre-payment schemes homogenise funerals, this is solved by not having set plans; each one is as bespoke as each of our funerals.
If you are interested in taking this further, please get in touch.