At the Natural Death Centre we get contacted fairly regularly by organisations and companies offering new and modern ways to memorialise and celebrate the lives of those lost.

As a charity, we have always focused on the essentials: the disposal, the funeral director, the coffin, the ability to organise directly etc. We have shied away from ‘products’ that we see as extras or add-ons, additional expense for families beyond the ‘must do’.

However there are many ideas and products that are essentially valid and worthy offerings so in this edition we thought that we would introduce some of them:

w2r3 A Giving Tribute – A company set up by Liz Mowatt, ‘A Giving Tribute’ provides tribute cards that can be filled in on-line by family members, colleagues and friends in the days leading up to a funeral. These written memories and photos are mounted in a special display and placed at the funeral. There is no cost to the family for these cards to be filled in. The cards can later be mounted in a Memory Book to share with others and keep for future generations, safekeeping photos and thoughts about the deceased, written by those who knew them.

The Woodland Trust – runs aWoodland Dedication scheme where individuals can have an area of woodland dedicated to them.

There are over 700 woods to choose from across the UK, and costs start from a donation of £250 for a dedication of a quarter of an acre, £1000 for a dedication of an acre, and £3,000 for a dedication of an acre grove with a bench. Each woodland area is dedicated only once, making the memorial truly unique and exclusive to the individual. Each dedication comes with a personalised certificate, a map outlining the area, information about the wood’s history and wildlife, plus a picture of the chosen spot.

Each wood can be visited for free and the trust allows the option of group funds, an excellent way for a number of people to contribute to a single woodland dedication.

Memories UK Ltd – provide life-story slideshows on DVD: These can be viewed at a funeral, memorial service or wake, either as part of a service or running in the background, on a loop.

At a wake or get together the slideshows prompt conversations and evoke memories by illustrating the dead person’s life using the best photos that are available about them; maybe including some taken by that person. They can be ordered into a storyline; growing up, holidays, pets, hobbies, etc. Favourite music can be added in the background and families could consider making DVD copies of the slideshow to hand out as a memento.

Samples can be seen at Anne Forrest the owner of the company also offers free advice on how to put these compilations together yourself. Another fantastic use of her DVDs is in the care of dementia patients, a visual aide-mémoire for them, providing some familiarity and comfort.

MuchLoved has pioneered the introduction of online memorials in the UK and has created a beautiful and respectful service which can be of great support to the bereaved. Families can easily personalise and update their memorials. As a registered charity their ethos is both appropriate and sensitive and we are delighted to support and recommend their tribute service.

w2rForget Me Not Book  is another company offering a free to use web based service. You can create an online memory book of stories and photos about someone close to you; living or dead. Invite family and friends to add to this and share in the enjoyment of retelling and reliving memories together.   Stories can be stored indefinitely and viewed online or printed off for those without a computer.

The National Forest Company leads the creation of The National Forest, a new, wooded landscape for the nation across 200 square miles of central England. The National Forest Company was established by the Government in April 1995. It is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).A tree costs £25 and a personalised certificate template can be filled in on line and printed off.

Ashes in glass – There are many companies setting ashes into glass and other products, we particularly like the look of the glassware produced by Fay Goodridge and her team at:

Elysium memorial – responding to the changing ways in which people are choosing to celebrate a life, rather than mourn a loss, this Somerset based company produces exclusively British artisan made contemporary memorials.