Opinion

We need to talk more about death – especially our own

Death happens. Sometimes it comes on us suddenly, but the dice is stacked more on the side of us knowing it is going to happen.

Although it can be upsetting, we need to talk to loved ones, especially close family, so they know our wishes.

Funerals can be very different and there is a refreshing movement away from the doom and gloom.

There is also a trend towards ‘live wakes’ where the person, if still well enough, has all friends and family surrounding them to say a special goodbye. Not everyone would find this easy, and for some their religion would not allow them to take this path. Yet to have an acknowledgment of their life and a celebration of it is often uplifting. Not so the rather dour Scotsman who presided over another funeral; he berated us for being sinners and spoke hardly at all about the life we had lost and the friend we would miss. I know which I would prefer.

The best wake I went to was a few years ago for a resilient lady who had three times beaten cancer. Her amazing spirit and strength allowed her to keep bouncing back, but finally she accepted defeat and planned a wake. Pam had a wide circle of friends spanning many interests; music, martial arts, writing and art. We gathered for a special lunch at the Chinese restaurant in our town and her daughter sang and friends talked about the Pam they knew. There were beautiful tributes and a lot of genuine love spread through the room. Pam went on to live another two years, but had no more interventions just good care and pain relief. As well as the beautiful things said about her she had a little box crammed with stories and messages from over a hundred friends, she used to take one out and read it on a bad day.

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She had a ‘good’ death if that is possible. I saw her the last day, still lucid, and having her nails done by her daughter.

Most funerals these days do have the human touch; memories and photos are used, music from when they were young, and ministers do attempt to find out more about the real person so they can share it with the congregation. Anything that can lift the spirits at such a sad time can help to dull the pain of loss.

I have chosen some music, and will have a very simple ‘gathering’ – not a service – so when I decide to throw in the towel I will do it to the sound of “Fields of Gold” by Eva Cassidy (my Somerset childhood), a bit of upbeat reggae, “I can see clearly now” by Jimmy Cliff and “Spirit in the Sky”. 

Do you have any plans in place for your own goodbye?

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