We recently had the pleasure of joining Rebecca Lacey as she hosted the Death Cafe in Monmouth last month. It was refreshing to sit and discuss death openly in a welcoming environment, where people could ask the questions that were important to them. We invited Becca to write a guest blog for us telling us a bit more about this meeting and what a Death Cafe actually is ...
'What is a Natural Burial and what type of funeral can I have at a Natural Burial Ground?' These are just a few of the questions we have been asked in the past and wanted to help clarify with our blog below. If you have a question we haven't answered just let us know in the comments.
Getting the word out about our Natural Burial Grounds
Allow us to introduce Sarah Wickham, joint landowner (alongside her partner Dai) of our latest candidate burial ground in Pembrokeshire. We've been so impressed with Sarah's enthusiasm, research, creativity and hard work, combined with a deep understanding about the needs of bereaved families that we asked her if she would be able to apply all that she was bringing to the Pembrokeshire project to the other natural burial grounds we manage. We are delighted to report that she said yes...
Jane Sheppard's beautiful ceramic urns
We spent an enjoyable and inspiring day exhibiting at Frome's Pushing Up The Daisies event in Mid-October. Not only did we meet up with old friends and acquaintances, but we also met Jane Sheppard, who makes beautiful ceramic urns. We invited her to write a guest post for us to introduce her pots...
When we received an image of a very special painting of Usk Burial Meadow from one of the families that visited the meadow we wanted to share this with others. This beautiful painting of the meadow by by Louise Kelly not only captures the essence of Lower Meadow but also has a very special meaning behind it that we wanted to share with you ...
When someone we love dies it's important that we have a chance to grieve. Grief is expressed in many ways, sometimes physically, sometimes visually and sometimes not at all. In this blog we explore this a little bit more...
I love a historic churchyard or a Victorian cemetery, the craft and sculpture of the memorial mason. The darkness of mature yew trees, the statuesque sequoias and grand cedars. The mellow tones of limestone and lead and the flash of verdigris from weathered bronze. Wrought and cast iron railings, sundials and globes, anchors and chains. Such decadence. Rich and competitive displays of grief. They were never sustainable and continue to drain the resources of those who care for them.
The Second World War cut labour and material resources. It also brought about a change in attitude towards death and equality, which put a stop on the exuberance and rich craftsmanship of previous generations. Enter modern municipal cemeteries. These strived to take a more pragmatic approach with the aim of reducing maintenance requirements. The lawn-cemetery was conceived in the 1950's, taking inspiration from the simple uniformity of the war graves. They adopted the principle but lost the soul.
Today's lawn cemeteries have no charm or beauty. They feature narrow strips of mis-matching, back-to-back memorials bolted onto bands of cast reinforced concrete, that steps down with each change in level. Between the rows of memorials, aisles of barren, mown grass continue the austerity. They present a rather sad, perfunctory arrangement; stock headstones of indestructible polished rock, imported from halfway around the world. Alongside clichéd epitaphs, sandblasted into the stone, new technology has allowed images to be laser etched or full-colour printed onto the stones. Flowers left in integral vases range from fresh to spent, while artificial blooms linger longer to end in faded brittleness. Across an internal tarmac road might lie an area of 'traditional' graves with kerbstones and more substantial memorials. Here, to avoid strimming and fiddly grass-cutting lawn has been replaced by buff coloured gravel, interspersed by resin-bonded micro-gravel paths. Further on is an array of stone tablets each with its own flower vase and inscription. A sea of artificial silk flowers on plastic coated wire stems, cast stone figurines and solar powered lights, it's all too much for the eye to settle on.
My heart sinks in these places. I don't belong here. I long for the calm uniformity, and crispness of a war graves area, or to browse the heritage, art-forms and craft of the high Victorians, or to feel the patina of weathered, local stones leaning in God's green acres. But I'm most at home in the peace and simplicity of a truly natural burial ground.
Our mantra - 'Simple, natural and beautiful' seems to work best.
Often a person will have told the family not to waste any money on their funeral. Direct cremation is a low cost option that is growing in popularity. It simply means that the body is removed and cremated with the minimum fuss, with no service at the crematorium, and at the funeral director's and crematorium's convenience. This means that the family won't be able to visit and view the body after removal and cannot attend the cremation, which some might not want, but the cost reductions can be significant.
A number of national companies have been formed specifically to offer this service, but you don't necessarily have to use one of those, as your local funeral director should be able to provide the same service for you if you ask them.
It is quite possible to organise a direct cremation yourself. You will need to liaise with the staff at the crematorium about paperwork that you will need to complete, the type of coffin to use and the timing and method of bringing the person who has died to them. Guidance from the government is published here online
When a cremation is separate from the farewell, family can stay with fellow mourners after a memorial service. This has the benefit that they won't miss the opportunity to mix with everyone at the post-funeral gathering and enjoy the support that brings. Often by the time the family get back from the crematorium quite a number of the people who have gathered for the funeral have departed.
Cremation is never the final rite, but you have longer to decide what you do with the ashes. What you choose to do can be to fulfil the person's identity; put them somewhere they'd love to be...
you'll take my dust
and lay it down in peace
'neath leafy boughs
and moonlit skies
for there, I'll feel released”
Visit the National Memorial Arboretum
On Tuesday 26th June 2018, we attended a conference organised by the Church of England at the National Memorial Arboretum. The title of the conference was...
"Just put me in the bin" - Contemporary issues around ashes and bodies
On one of the hottest days of the summer, speakers from the church academia and funeral professionals addressed a marquee full of clergy, celebrants and a couple of cemetery managers (us).
Some interesting points we took away are: -
"A good funeral gets the dead where they need to go and the living where they need to be."
When planting an apple tree at Bath in memory of her husband, his wife told us that she wears his wedding ring on a chain around her neck with the longitude and latitude of his grave engraved into the ring so that she would never forget.
We love this idea and searched for something similar so that others could do the same. That is when we discovered Silversmith, Cari-Jane Hakes, who hand-makes highly personalised sterling silver necklaces with a minimal and contemporary design, specifically to record those moments when our lives change forever. Her design lets you commemorate these events by engraving them onto the silver bands of this necklace - past moments, worn close to your heart and carried with you into your future.
The engravings can be uniquely yours...
"Let me know if you have any ideas you want to explore. Basically anything that involves metal and text I can do!" Cari. Contact Cari by email email@example.com
Her work is available through her ETSY website.
Stories and thoughts from the Leedam camp.
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