Inevitably, professionals are busy and lack the time and inspiration to treat everything as an individual case. I am sure families would love what our guest blogger, Alison Eddy, can offer...
As a designer and artist, initially I was asked by friends and family to create bespoke Order of Service brochures. Having myself witnessed loss, I wanted to contribute something at this difficult time. By creating a unique design, we could remember their loved ones more intimately and vividly than many readily available designs. I also hoped to combine a level of professionalism with my genuine desire to reflect, albeit on this modest stage, a little about the person and their life.
I felt there was a place for bespoke cards that marked a person’s life with celebration and with a non-denominational approach. Where the design could reflect their passions, work or incorporate something unique that would allow their loved ones to smile as they remembered it.
Revelling in the beauty and grandeur of nature, many of the background images I use are full-bleed imagery which give a visceral sense of being somewhere beautiful and important, perhaps providing some comfort as they picture their loved ones there. After the service it can also serve as a small reminder of the occasion and sit alongside other
memories and treasured photos.
How it works
Initially, we can give advice on how others have approached this to simplify the process during this difficult time. For example, I’ve found that an A4 size (an ordinary sheet of paper) folded to A5 creating 4 sides, is a format that works well. Giving enough space for important details without having to worry about providing lots of content.
We can discuss the imagery a client would like to use, which they can send as scanned images. I also have an extensive library of original photographs I have taken which lend themselves to evocative backdrops for other images and information about the service. Sometimes when using vintage photographs, I can also enhance them with a little digital restoration, and make them print worthy once again.
Once we have settled on an idea I can design the order of service card and send an initial design proof to you via email for your comments or updates. I can make these adjustments and then when you are happy to sign-off the design, I will send it to a trusted local printer. The finished printed, trimmed and folded brochures can be delivered to a chosen UK address.
I appreciate that during this time, the last thing you want to think about is cost or timings. So I aim to work with agreed fixed costs that include managing print and delivery. This ensures expenses and production are kept simple and timely, so you have what you need, when you need it. Out of respect, I have only included a few finished designs. As an example, prices for this complete bespoke design service range from £350-£550, with print costs averaging between £30-£55 dependent on the quantity needed. My website, designandpurpose.com, gives broader examples of my design and experience".
SUNDAY, 23RD APRIL 2017 - 2.00 P.M TO 4.00 P.M
Our lovely landowner/custodian, Rosie Humphreys, at our natural burial meadow at Usk came up with the brilliant idea of how we could occasionally be present at the site to answer any enquiries from visitors. She has purchased and sited a shepherd's hut at the top of the drive just before you reach the burial ground's car park. We have been there each Sunday afternoon for the month of April. There are just two Sunday afternoons to go, so please come along if you would like to have a chat, have any questions or would simply like to have a look around.
At a recent funeral at Usk, assisted by Helen Williams of Treasured Funeral Ceremonies, a family posted a notice in the memorial shelter where people gathered for the funeral. We think it explains why people choose natural burial beautifully...
Today is the opening of our new Woodland Trail at Delliefure. John Diffey, the custodian at Delliefure, had this wonderful idea to encourage people to explore and absorb the beautiful surroundings of the natural burial ground and the Scottish wilderness.
Around each corner, there is an interesting or picturesque feature making the trail feel like a true adventure and drawing the explorer further into the woodland.
Begin by enjoying the beautiful open glades of the burial ground, with a range of different flora and fauna to be seen; this leads you to the riverside with picturesque views downstream and then you will reach a viewpoint at the northern escarpment. The more adventurous can continue on and scramble down banks, hop streams and explore the valley below. The walk offers a real diversity of terrain and wildlife habitats with riverside vistas.
Come and explore this truly special place.
Doing it yourself can be quite daunting, but can help considerably when coming to terms with the death of someone close. Over the years we have picked up some tips which we like to pass on…
It is perfectly possible to do everything yourselves, if you have the support and physical capability to do so. Our page on Family Led Funerals helps with links and advice on what to do. It is also possible to organise most things yourselves, , whilst still receiving support from a local funeral director for 'logistics' - collecting the body, placing the body into a coffin, storing in a refrigerated room until bringing it to the burial ground, where you can take over again.
The funeral director can provide bearers for the burial and lower the coffin into the ground for you and then leave. It can be less inhibiting and more personal if you arrange beforehand for them to withdraw after lowering so that only family and friends and perhaps a funeral celebrant remain to share the time around the grave. Most funeral directors are most happy to do this, after all it frees up the men and hearse to go to the next funeral. The funeral director will quite often suggest that he remains nearby in case help is needed. They take their responsibility for the welfare of the family very seriously, which is thoughtful, though sometimes not necessary.
It can be a good idea if the body can be brought to rest at the burial ground before anyone else arrives. Sometimes a family member will have a van or people-carrier and will take a shroud or coffin to the mortuary at a hospital or coroner's department where staff will help them put the person into the coffin and into the vehicle, from where they drive directly to the burial ground. On arrival, they can place the coffin across the grave, or on trestles until the mourners arrive (perhaps within a service space or memorial shelter) and move the van out of the way.
One family had a private burial early in the day and set up seats in the shade of a shelter on the other side of the meadow. There, they welcomed people, who were given no set time to arrive, before inviting them to pay their respects to the person who had died, already in the grave. That way they had the opportunity to greet, hug and engage with family and friends on an individual basis. This way, they received a great deal of support and comfort from people as they trickled in.
"A good funeral gets the dead where they need to go and the living where they need to be." - Thomas Lynch Funeral Director and writer.
Some families hold small very intimate and personal services, especially when a baby has died. Others, particularly when a younger person has died, hold much bigger gatherings. All stay for as long as they wish.
We find that families who arrange things themselves need more support and talk to us a great deal more than those who rely on a Funeral Director. They often need help with forms, and an idea of what others have done beforehand which made the event special. Regularly we have to chase the coffin size because it either hasn't arrived, or been made, or they didn’t realise the urgency of that information; getting the grave-size right is critical for a burial.
On the hottest day of 2017 I had to take a spade and extend a grave by another six inches in front of 250 people who had gathered for a DIY funeral. I realised we might have a problem when a family friend, who was standing alongside me as I checked that all was ready, asked if I was sure the grave would be big enough, "He was a tall man." Sure enough, instead of giving us the external measurements we need, the family had given us the supplier’s internal measurements for the coffin, which were well under. No one minded, most hardly noticed.
We try to make it as straightforward as possible for people to go it alone by giving as much information as we can on our website where, for example, there is a practical guide for carrying and lowering the coffin.
Larger funerals that are not choreographed and have no structure or 'master of ceremonies' to lead the way are sometimes awkward. Funeral celebrants can help with this and bring their own creativity, experience and ideas to bear. It helps to have a framework for families to follow.
"We are free at funerals to choose our own music, write our own liturgies, dispense with a grave altogether and be scattered. Or not to have a funeral at all. We are free, and somehow a little bit lost at the same time." - Denise Inge from the book, Tour of Bones.
Image by Monmouth-based artist John Exton © Leedam 2016
Trying to make sense of things after a death is never easy and we have an instinctive need to do something tangible to show our respect. Cut flowers are the normal choice, but at a natural burial ground there are no grave markers with vases and no obvious place to put them. Should we bring them at all?
Cut flowers seem to be more in the tradition of the cemetery and death rather than the cycle of death and life that is represented by our natural burial grounds. Even cut daffodils, though lovely, will soon fade and die. They always seem somehow out of place lying down on the ground.
One alternative, that is both subtle and beautiful, is a scattering of rose petals - periodically to be found on some graves, and always poignant.
Jupiter Artland, Edinburgh
We recently received a call from someone looking to change careers and become a natural burial ground operator. His vision is to create a destination sculpture trail parkland similar to the little known Jupiter Artland on the western edge of Edinburgh. I wasn’t aware of Jupiter Artland and was keen to see what enthused him so much – so we visited to find out.
Immediately on arrival at the entrance to the Artland you know you are in for a treat – the front gates, designed by Ben Tindall, sparkle richly and invite you in. The driveway, initially flanked by woodland, opens up majestically into a spiralling, grassy, alien landform through which you drive. On through wildflower meadows, round the front of the 17th-century mansion house to a well concealed car park.
Set in the one hundred acre grounds, the artwork trail starts in the stable yard of the steadings where a shop, café and indoor gallery begin your experience. Out of the back door, the trail leads off into woodland where clearings feature remarkable works of art by well-known artists. We thoroughly enjoyed our two hour meander around the grounds and certainly recommend a visit.
The question is – does that environment offer what bereaved families seek from a natural burial ground? The answer is - no. The artistic richness certainly appeals, but the levels of activity by visiting families, groundsmen and staff are off-putting. The feedback we get most consistently says that people enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the surroundings at our natural burial grounds. They are places of escape from the hurly burly of everyday life.
What lessons can we learn from our visit? I think that art and sculpture can enrich the experience of a place, but that must not detract from its natural beauty. A sculpture trail and parkland needs paying visitors for economic sustainability, but at the cost of peacefulness. The mood of a burial ground is different from a visitor destination, and the mix wouldn’t work.
Yesterday at Leedam HQ we received some paperwork in a bright red envelope. Ha! A red letter day? We love a distraction so we spent some time finding out about the origins of the phrase ‘red letter day’. First off, a letter in a red envelope does not make it a red letter day.
Pity the poor rubricator - the medieval chap whose job was to write in red ink. He only got to do the titles and initials of chapters and the important dates on calendars – the red letter days. It was one up from being a scribe (black only) but was he was jealous of the illuminator who was more skilled got to use blue and gold?
Why red we wondered? Basically because it was cheap and plentiful. If you wanted blue you’d have to buy Lapis Lazuli and make ultra-marine. Given that in those days Lapis Lazuli came from north east Afghanistan via camel trail then ship this made it incredibly valuable.
Rewind to Roman times and they circled the important days on their calendars in red. If you go back even further to the Egyptians and look at what the average Hieroglyphics pencil case looked like there were only two colours. Guess what?
Further back still to cave drawings and yup you've got it …
If you haven't been able to visit the meadow, or if you'd like to see those views once more, this video looks around the burial ground, its beautiful mature trees, the memorial shelter, and takes you to glimpses within the panoramic view across The Vale of Glamorgan and the city of Cardiff.
Find out more on Cardiff's website:
On a sunny March morning, we visited Bath Natural Burial Meadow to meet three families and help them plant their memorial trees. These were planted in the orchard we are restoring there, that is on the left as you enter the burial ground.
The apple trees play a crucial role in what we are trying to achieve at the meadow at Bath - to maintain Midford's, and the Cotswolds', natural beauty. Each new tree and burial also safeguards the site against future development.
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