Monday, 29 October 2012

It's your funeral. So why not make some plans before it is too late

28th Oct - 2.45-4.45pm | Design your own Dead Good Funeral – workshop. 

Friends Meeting House, 43 St. Giles, OX1 3LW | Map No 8

After attending some truly awful funerals John and Sue, founders of Welfare State International, decided to try and improve things. Using their skills as artist, writers and musicians,They started Dead Good Guides which creates new traditions of secular rites of passage and offers training to independent celebrants.
This workshop will discuss case studies, dispel common myths, demonstrate the nuts and bolts of planning a funeral, inspire you and give you confidence in developing your own funeral wishes. You will come up with a framework for a personal ceremony you can take home and discuss with your family and friends.

Having looked them up on the web and been immensely impressed by their history of creating arts in the community and bringing funerals to life for many people, I had high expectations of this workshop and was not disappointed.

I wrote down the suggested balloons for the different aspects of making my funeral plan and added the numerous dimensions, but I hardly made one clear decision.

With Holly's mother having had a friend as executor and six months to plan hers, she had it all down to the fine detail,
.She got her white Rolls Royce and her coffin in blue velvet with silver stars. She had the catholic funeral service followed by a trip to the crematorium for close family and friends.

But I think I need to talk it all over with Gabrielle and the children before I do anything. After all, they might ignore everything I have in mind unless I make some lawyer the executor and get him to disinherit them if they misbehave. I am not going to do that.

Cousin Christine managed to give all her wealth to Mind despite the fact they never did anything to help her. There was even a clause in the will which allowed them not to spend it as she would have wished.

Given that I am very likely to die within twenty years I want to make plans now, so that my family are not left struggling with trauma and shock while trying to guess my desires, after my little red sports car crashes off the cliffs. I am always aware of how suddenly Gill dropped dead next to me.

Gill left no will. We were unsure about what she even wanted for her boys.

I don't want that for me.

There is another reason to do it now. 

If I want to be able to help others through death and dying I had better at least have my own house in order.

There is an even better reason too, which leads right back into this workshop. 

Death needs to be reclaimed for life and the living. It has been anaesthetized and commercialized to the point where everything is determined by money and Victorian tradition. 

How many really dead funerals have we all been to?

Queen Victoria died 109 years ago. But the way we do funerals has become ossified in rituals that have not changed since the nineteenth century.

Yet we have Jung's archetypes and Campbell's Creative Mythology to draw from now in thinking about living our dying. Though many have lost faith in a transcendent God, they find solace in an immanent God or Goddess in the world of nature around us.

We have the vast resources of the internet to draw on in dreaming and planning.

What is more, in these cash strapped times we can do things so very much more cheaply if we take matters into our own hands. Who needs a hearse?

John and Sue took us through lots of examples of the work they have been involved with over the years in Cumbria.

When they first put out feelers to the world to explore how to make funerals more creative people flooded to them from all over the world.

One of the main themes was the way so many people have moved away from the old religions without losing a sense of spirituality.

The funerals people create these days tend to be filled with natural symbols. God or Gods and Goddesses are discovered and worshiped by people in images taken from the world of nature around us.

This workshop followed on directly from the Pitt Rivers Fish burial. Someone even asked about advertizing on coffins. The Pitt Rivers had chosen a coffin covered in advertizing ads for their shop keeper funeral. Why they had chosen this empty commercial idea is explicable in terms of their exhibition on trade and trading places, but it was so lacking in the wonderful creative art work that this same coffin makers in Ghana was producing and still produces.

Here in this workshop we saw people collectively gathering to make felt shrouds or add pictures on to a white shroud. So much art work can be made digitally today.

We explored legal issues.

There are few legal requirements.

It is possible for family and friends to do everything themselves.

It was touching to hear of one group finding seven shovels for mourners to bury the dead person. It took just eleven minutes to fill in the soil over the coffin.

All of this is so much easier to do if you know how long you have to live. Many people at least know how many months they still have if they are terminally ill.

I am just not sure I shall have the energy left then though. I may become depressed.

I plan to offer my help to people who are dying to help them through the process as coach. 

I bought their dead good guide to help set the ball rolling.

The theme of the funeral symbolizing what the life has been about seems a profound idea to me.

But what symbols to choose for me? Is it too early to say what my life has been about, when there might be so much left to come?

1 comment:

  1. It’s amazing how you’re able to look at funerals in such an objective manner, Nick. Throughout history, funerals are enveloped in grief, shock, and even anger. These emotions will always be present when someone dies, but I agree with you that the relatives of the deceased will recover easier, when there’s a set plan. Yes, planning a funeral is a bit taboo, but it’s something that we won’t escape. Thus, we have to prepare for it.

    Margo Loveless