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All Saints and All Souls

News St Martin – Talking Points

Sunday 3 November 2013

Little did I know in early July when I produced the front cover rota that putting myself on for All Souls would come so soon after a sudden goodbye to a very close family friend.

The news of Barry’s cancer came completely out of the blue and his death was much sooner than expected, giving no chance to ask what farewell he wanted other than where he wanted his ashes to be buried. 

We’re pretty confident that he would have approved of his funeral, which was above all a thanksgiving for his life as well as a goodbye.  Organising it without knowing his direct wishes gave the opportunity to discover more about him as so many people highlighted a different facet of his life and character.  We defer conversations about death itself, in spite of our Christian hope that it is not the end but merely a doorway – as well as a huge wrench for those who are left behind.

Perhaps the most raw point in the outward rituals was the interment of the ashes.  Finding a suitable biodegradable container was a challenge – those designed for the purpose were inappropriate and ridiculously expensive.  In the end, we used a family sewing basket – a homely item, which seemed so right, linking death to life and life to death.  Decanting Barry’s ashes into that basket is a memory that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

It helped me decide what’s to happen with my ashes.  My executors will buy six bottles of nice wine in a wooden box – and use the box for my ashes and the wine to celebrate life.

So let us celebrate, commemorate and mourn All Souls in whatever proportion is right for us at the time.

Jeff Claxton