Over 16 years of being involved with death, I continue to meet new people who have, through various ways, come to be working in some death related business. Some have been inspired by good experiences to take up a new career. Many others have been motivated by disappointment and anger at the way they were treated or the shoddy service they witnessed their family receiving. “I could do a whole lot better” is something I regularly hear.
Personally I never expected that firstly I would end up burying people in shallow graves in the woods and secondly running a funeral- related charity. It seems like many things in life I just fell into it by chance, or was it meant to be? (I have yet to fall into a grave.)
We received this account from a coffin painter in Cornwall who has her own take on how her journey started. I hadn’t heard any account like this before so thought M2D would share it with you.
One sunny afternoon back in the 60s when I was about seven years old, I was playing in my maternal Nan`s back garden and I was suddenly drawn to an old enamel bread bin: you know, the sort of thing that is back in vogue now.
It was lying dormant behind the garden shed so I pulled it out from the weeds and grass that were growing around it, unveiling worms and other such creepy crawlies.
I placed it on the sunny lawn and pondered, `It needs a wash! ‘ So I took it to the outside tap and rinsed off the earth and then left it to dry.
Now what happens next is quite bizarre for a young girl to be doing but please bear with me and I do believe all will become clear.
As it was very warm there was an abundance of flies making their mark on the day; some were full of zest and there were others, who ,shall we say, had seen better days! I decided that those who were no longer with us needed a resting place and I had just the place for them… the bread bin!
I put earth in the bin about a quarter of the way up and then I put each and every dead fly in a neatly parcelled piece of toilet roll and then gently placed the white soft caskets of toilet roll on top of the earth.
The next stage was gently to place more soil over the top of them. With the task completed, I knelt over the bin and observed my undertaking. Now they were buried neatly beneath the earth ; everything looked bleak and dark but as this was a beautiful summer’s afternoon, there was an abundance of colourful blooms in the garden.
Mmm, this needs colour I remember thinking…!
I looked around the garden and was careful in my choice of picking : this needed to be dainty and delicate little flowers, not blowsy blooms or traditional roses. It had to be a natural creation.
I gathered daisies from the unmown grass, buttercups and buds of delicate pink fuchsias that were abundant on their stems : these are what I can remember picking. This needed a base before the buds and naive blooms could be placed on the top, so I set about picking the long blades of the unmown grass and covered the bare and unwelcoming soil with them.
The grass created a carpet of green and now all I had to do was to set about placing the gathered flowers one by one to create a resting place to the flies.
A transformation had occurred : the dark and cold- looking grave now looked less daunting and scary.
So much thought and detail that had gone into this; it is an afternoon that has stayed with me. I really knew nothing of `death` at this age; being `dead` just meant that the person wasn`t here.
As we all mature, `death` has more of an impact on us individually and I , like many others , became fearful of it…what happens when we die – a sense of emptiness and darkness, how could that be it?
It wasn`t until I was in my mid twenties that my view on `death` changed. I suffered a traumatic miscarriage, which resulted in a minor operation but due to hospital negligence, routine procedures were forgotten and when lying on the operating table I had an out of body experience, which then changed my views on death from there on.
Since that experience my awareness of `something else` became increasingly prominent in my life!
Was this awareness of ‘something else’ telling me that funerals should be more than dark clothes and coffins, a lack of light and colour? Was someone, somewhere, preparing me that summer afternoon back in the 60s for what I would endeavour to do in the future…delicately painted eco-friendly coffins….I very much think so! X
Love and much light