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Life and Death

Before I became involved in the business of funerals, I’d never had the opportunity to spend time with the dead. Not that it’s something I ever really aspired to do. My perspective about death was formed by my membership in the audience of the living.

My first encounter with a dead person in a mortuary setting was an elderly man. He’d died of natural causes… the old ticker just stopped working. As I prepared to place him in his coffin, I looked closely at his face and a deep chord struck within me. It was a realisation of how truly vulnerable we all are in death.

For me, caring for the dead is a sacred trust, much like caring for a newborn baby. A newborn can’t ask its parents to treat it gently and provide for it and nor can the dead. At both ends of life we find extreme vulnerability and an unspoken request that the carer will do their best in these transitional times of life.

This sacred trust I speak of has nothing to do with the grieving family and friends or how much they pay for the funeral, whether the deceased was a pillar of the community or the last of his line, with no one to mourn his passing. It’s about being human.

I’ve spoken with many people who’ve expressed a personal fear of death. But it makes me wonder…

In the womb, a child has life but has no idea that it will soon pop out into the world or even if there is a world to pop into. Is the baby afraid? Does it float around inside its mother, agonising about what will happen next? I don’t think so. And yet, that is how many people approach an impending death.

Since I started looking at life and death from this perspective, I don’t worry too much about what the end of my life will bring. Only the dead know what happens when we die, just as only the living know what happens after birth.

Wicker coffins are so gently beautiful

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