Humanist Burial: Called "A Beautiful Experience."
In peace at last. A photo from the Park.
Spending the hereafter in an ancient forest.
My friend, Sue, was called to a funeral yesterday of one of her husband's old football mates who had passed away, sadly quite young, of a heart crisis.
I groaned when she told me, and she wasn't too keen, either. I avoid funerals like the plague, if that's not a rather inappropriate analogy. I prefer to think we should spend more time with the living, and believe - like the poet: "When from the body steals life's heat/Why all the excitement to carry the meat?" I do get accused of being overtly cynical sometimes and I can see why.
But this is not about me or my curmudgeonly opinions.
In fact, not being one of the guests yesterday, my opinion remains approximately the same, but Sue told me that, far from being a harrowing waste of a day, the funeral was a “Beautiful Experience.”
A lot of people recently - Humanists, or those who favour a more relaxed and natural way of doing things, have made a decision to return to nature for the final resting place of themselves or their beloved. In this overcrowded little nation of Britain, that sounds a lot easier than, in fact, it is. All the land belongs to someone and whereas in the States, Canada and Australia, to name a few vast countries, you can probably drive into them thar hills; the desert or the forests and dig a hole for poor old gramps, that would be impossible here with close to one thousand people per square mile and most with their noses in each other's business, ready to tattle if they find your darling Aunt Hetty buried in their allotment. (small plots for vegetable cultivation “allotted” free to the public...just try getting one in 2011!).
So in the British Isles some enterprising person has to acquire the wooded land by purchase or long-term lease, and obtain all the necessary licenses to open in the body - or ashes - burying business.
My friend and the bereaved family visited one of quite a few of these "natural" areas being developed for Humanists and others who like the idea of their final resting place being among trees, birds, flowers and in peaceful silence.
This was the Epping Forest Burial Ground: 52 acres of bluebell woods (the Bluebell is greatly loved and protected in Britain and where they chose to grow en mass is almost like sacred ground), purchased by Kate Adie, OBE (to have a gong like the Order of the British Empire must help when dealing with august bodies like those who control England's ancient woodlands). The flourishing business has won awards already.
Epping Forest, about 25 miles north of London, is one of the last remnants of the great forests; once used by a succession of royal heads as hunting grounds; still with many examples of the mighty trees like yew, oak and elm, etc., that once covered Britain.
It cannot have been easy to get permission to chop-off yet another piece of this rapidly disappearing oasis; the fact that the current administration under Cameron is ecology-minded must have helped. Plus the fact this is another example of an imaginative entrepreneur answering a need. This in a population with a larger percentage of senior citizens each year, often paying quite large amounts for the privilege of being interred alongside hundreds of others in a regularly noisy and unattractive churchyard.
The actual burial here is conducted from a gathering point in a lovely, woodsy communal hall; then the mourners and the funeral party walk through the woods to the selected grave site. Here, there is a short service and a normal burial takes place (Sue said the whole ceremony, from start to finish, was only about one hour).
As part of the permission to conduct the business, the woodlands are being returned as far as possible to the natural, coppiced groves of yore. Bird nesting boxes to appeal to many species of wild bird have been secreted in the greenery, resulting in the funerals being conducted to the backdrop of blackbird and thrush song, with warblings from many other not quite so dramatic songsters. For me, there is nothing like the drowsy, contented song of the Blackbird; almost hypnotic, as he perches in his tree and salutes the efforts of his mate in the nest below, immune to her mutterings of “It‘s alright for you!”.
If one has to die, and it seems inevitable at present, this may be the ideal spot to rest the weary and worn-out old body, although it will obviously give much more satisfaction after the event to the family and friends than it will to the corpse. For the departed, the pleasure may be contemplating this final, infinite holiday in such beautiful surroundings, where, perhaps, the blackbirds get the early worm before it gets you! And no need to bring flowers, the inmates rest among glorious primroses, bluebells and daffodils, as the stuff of life slowly becomes part of sward and tree.
Humanism and Humanists have worn many hats over the Millennia, far too numerous to mention herein.
In our times, there are 100 or more Humanist groups worldwide, in more than 40 nations. The organisation is IHEW, International Human and Ethical Union.
Humanists mainly reject "pseudoscience," and superstition: you can add your own sub-headings to this bland statement.
They advocate justice, reason and ethics, among other noble endeavours.
The full story is online with Wiki, etc.
I will add some more information - such as cost, etc., to this article over the next few days.