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A very modern death

(99 Posts)
TheMillersTale Mon 03-Nov-14 08:19:39

I have written a piece on how we approach death and how the concept of a 'good death' has changed over the years. I'd be interested in hearing your opinions.

Here it is.

Leticia Mon 03-Nov-14 08:32:33

I think you have to view it as 'the next great adventure'- either there is nothing and so it doesn't matter- or you find out what happens!
Part of the problem is that it is a now a taboo subject and people won't talk about it- they don't know how to talk about it. They won't talk about it to children.
I have just been to a friend's funeral and it was the best- she knew she was dying and so planned the entire thing from bright clothes to songs, readings to was very much 'her' event. The one before that was an elderly lady in her 90s and very much a family affair with her 9 yr old great granddaughter reading her own poem, and other very personal stuff.
A good death is to die at home (when elderly), with your loved ones, having planned your own funeral- in my opinion.

TheMillersTale Mon 03-Nov-14 08:46:50

I agree it is a taboo subject and I am still surprised by the euphemisms used.

They sounds like lovely funerals Leticia and I am sorry for the loss of your friends. We choose our friends don't we and their loss can be so very hard?

I have had several deaths of relatives recently (Father, FIL and GF) and all died at home. My father was not the sort of man to discuss anything bar the weather with his children- he had a similar approach to the Queen-at a distance!) but I did talk very much with my grandfather and felt he was prepared, as we were, for what might happen.

granjura Mon 03-Nov-14 09:03:52

Haven't had time to read it yet- only the first part. Must say I am amazed how little families talk about their wishes- for the funeral, religious, secular, natural burial, cremation, coffin, etc.... and mostly, about organ donation. Even though I know my bits are becoming less and less useful to others with age- I still hope that one day perhaps some bits could be re-used- or at least used for research.

It makes me physically sick when I see coffin made of precious hard woods, lined with silk and with gold plated handles, etc- it all seems such a waste. And cannot ever understand 'but it's your mother, surely she deserves the best' kind of comments. Same for her grave- which only has a natural local limestone rock on it- with a small bronze bird attached to it- which had been given to her as a leaving gift from the art foundary where she worked when younger. Surrounded by huge fancy marble graves- her grave, with my dads ashes...her grave as a quiet and comforting dignity.

Will read and get back to you later.

jinglbellsfrocks Mon 03-Nov-14 09:44:05

Most people do what they have to at funerals. You don't think about whether to cry or not. It happens or it doesn't.

How people react when they are with someone as they die, is never premeditated. It happens.

I think the article is a rambling, unnecessary, superfluous piece of nonsense.

Do you need an antidepressant?

jinglbellsfrocks Mon 03-Nov-14 09:48:14

Families had the coffin at home because funeral parlours had not been invented.

It's a nice idea to do the same today - to lie in your home to 'rest a while' before the final goodbye, but I think it would heap so much more sorrow on the ones left behind. Stow me away in a funeral parlour. That's fine.

thatbags Mon 03-Nov-14 09:54:33

I don't talk about or plan my funeral because I simply do not care two hoots how my remains are disposed of, not because I think it a taboo subject. I've talked about it insofar as to make my couldn't-give-a-damn views known to my offspring. That's all they need to know, surely? I presume they will choose one of the available options. If feeding my remains to vultures is one of the options, that's fine by me.

I don't think the sunject is taboo at all. It has been discussed before on gransnet at least once for a start. And here it is again. If it were taboo we wouldn,t be talking about it.

TheMillersTale Mon 03-Nov-14 10:19:38


Sometimes people do 'premeditate' how they are when people die. It is pretty simple psychology as to why they do it.

Goodness- you think my talking about the death of people I love is superfluous nonsense? What a nasty thing to say- I'm not sure that an antidepressant would sort that kind of attitude out in you sad

To be honest I don't mind at all what my family do with me: whatever makes them feel better is fine by me- just keep Jingle away from the funeral that's all wink

I'm not sure Gransnet functions as a typical representation regarding how death is talked about (it is a chat forum after all and people come here to talk about stuff). I have met a large cross section of society through my work and people are still fey about talking about death.

granjura Mon 03-Nov-14 10:21:43

Must say I am truly shocked at the huge delays in some parts of the UK for the funeral- weeks at times, and it is just not acceptable. People here are cremated or buried within days- how are families supposed to grieve and not say a finaly good-bye for weeks on end???

granjura Mon 03-Nov-14 10:24:19

In Kent it can take up to 3 weeks to just have the death registered- and then another 5 weeks for the cremation- this is sick.

TheMillersTale Mon 03-Nov-14 10:25:58


We had to wait nearly a month to bury my FIL 18 months ago. It wasn't very nice for my MIL.

It is wrong.

TheMillersTale Mon 03-Nov-14 10:29:21

Funeral parlours have been around since the mid 1800's and families continued to have their relatives coffins at home after that- and money was not always the reason either.

Some of it was because of cultural and religious beliefs.

jinglbellsfrocks Mon 03-Nov-14 10:42:03

They might think they know how they will react.

I think it was a miserable topic to bring onto Gransnet first thing on Monday morning. Or any time really. Quite crass really, but no doubt you will have a better reception from others. smile

Odd thing to be dwelling upon. Hence my suggestion.

granjura Mon 03-Nov-14 10:53:23

thatbags- I don't mind at all what happens to my body afterwards- but I really do not want precious trees to be cut from the rainforest, and other resources wasted to deal with the above- and from this end- I find the hypocrisy and all the nonsense said and sung at traditional funerals not to be said around me, even though I won't be there...

Just been re-reading Hatton's 'the curious incident of a dog in the nightime' and I just loved the view of Christopher, the boy with Asperger's, about death. Something like 'people want to believe in the afterlife because they don't like the idea of people taking their things and throwing them in a skip' or words to that effect. And I know just what he means.

Agus Mon 03-Nov-14 11:17:23

I have dealt with my parents funerals. Extremely sad, private and personal. Not something I would wish to discuss on any forum.

thatbags Mon 03-Nov-14 11:19:18

Good point, jura. Next time it crops up in conversation I'll mention what you've said though, actually, knowing my daughters, they'll have thought of stuff like that already smile.

granjura Mon 03-Nov-14 11:23:42

It is amazing how funeral directors can still put huge pressure and guilt upon families re the death of loved ones- and making them feel really bad for wishing to cut down the cost- but in my case, the materials (from the environment point of view)- especially smaller tradional family owned firms.

Marmight Mon 03-Nov-14 11:33:14

I found your piece very interesting reading.
When J died, suddenly, I was precipitated into a very strange unworldly situation. Although I had dealt with my father's death some years before, I was totally unprepared for this. I knew that it would happen sooner rather than later, but the suddenness of it absolutely threw me. I bitterly regret now that we hadn't spoken more about the inevitable, had everything out on the table, made a few decisions about where and how, but we didn't and it was left to me with the help of our DD's to sort everything out. In a way, it was a cathartic experience. I have tried to discuss my departure, when it comes, with my daughters but they don't want to know; perhaps it's too soon after their father's death. We are a very buttoned up society. I think it would be much better to open up and accept that we all die and talk about it rather than pretend it doesn't happen. I use the words die and dead rather than 'pass on' which I find difficult to use and rather twee - another result of society's unacceptance of the inevitable.

thatbags Mon 03-Nov-14 11:36:05

So, instruction number one will be: don't be bullied by funeral directors; a cardboard box or a bag will do, neither of which will be necessary if you choose the feed to vultures (or fish; I'm not fussy) option.

jollyg Mon 03-Nov-14 11:43:00

I go to S India a lot.

Son of our landlord comitted suicide in the house. We were staying upstairs. That was 1.30 am.

When we were awoken next morning at 7am by a banging chime, there was a fellow outside with a red bandana, and the body in a perspex case with head swathed in bandages. Prepared by the undertakers or whatever they call them there

Family had been summoned from far away. They met viewed the body, and then a flower bedecked vehicle turned up with a bamboo structure on it. This was 4,30 pm.

The women keened and the men put the body on to the bamboo. No rigor mortis

His father led the procession to the burning ghat dressed in a new white dhoti with a pot .

Women stayed till the end of the street , and men continued on to the Ghat, OH too. Once the pyre was lit men started to go away, one uncle said to OH

Do not look back

Family arrived next day having gathered the ashes and immeresed them in running water, to be dispersed everywhere.

Interesting thing about this was the boy died on the first day of the month in the town where we go to, and deaths in that month send you straight to nirvana, no rebirths at all.

His mother was bereft, Dad too and they still hold annual pujas in his memory.

No photos of him in the house at all

TheMillersTale Mon 03-Nov-14 11:48:22

You have kind of proved the point Jingle by saying it is an' odd topic'. I'd be interested to know when a good time to discuss it would be and I'll bear that in mind wink

Gran I agree- a solid wood coffin would not be my choice and I would want to cost my family as little as possible too because love does not mean spending a lot of money. I loved that book and think that quote is a great summation of the underlying fear, or one of them.

Marmite my condolences and to all who have had a loved one die. My children will talk about it but I have to couch it in lighter terms, even jokey ones otherwise they grow uncomfortable.

Argus I respect your choice to keep things private BUT I respectfully disagree that it is something that is not for public discussion or in bad tatse because I choose to do so. I certainly do not class myself as anywhere in their league but many many well known writers explore personal themes and events all the time. Life would be even more scarily mysterious if we all kept it behind closed doors. I also believe that when that mentality is extended to other areas of human experience, it can facilitate nefarious goings on because nobody questions anything.

TheMillersTale Mon 03-Nov-14 11:50:33


I grew up in Mexico and recall the Dios De Los Muertos ceremonies which we attended in various locations. I saw them removing the bodies of their loved ones from tombs, unwrapping,washing and rewrapping them. Petals of Marigolds would be scattered between the layers of cloth. It was strangely beautiful and the families all commemorated and celebrated memories together.

jinglbellsfrocks Mon 03-Nov-14 12:46:39

grin Enjoy!

jollyg Mon 03-Nov-14 13:10:37

Jingle are you in your right mind re my post and TMT

janerowena Mon 03-Nov-14 13:49:56

I thought it was an excellent article. I'm not frightened of death for myself, and am more than happy to discuss it! It was a revelation when I realised that it was far harder for friends and relatives to think about than it was for the dying in many cases. Seeing a friend who was angry with her husband because he was about to die and leave her with debts was another revelation, as was watching a male friend with cancer asking his wife why it couldn't be her instead, as he was the one who had earned all the money and now wouldn't get to enjoy it. That made for an interesting dinner party, I can tell you.

I took my children along to all funerals from babies. I wanted them to get used to the concept. They asked me about ten years ago what sort of funeral I wanted, as BiL died without instructions, and I asked for a cardboard box, no fuss or expense and my ashes to be scattered unto a tree with a good view over rolling countryside. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes and make decent compost is my philosophy.

But the relatives need to get over it somehow. Funerals are for them. I hear people get angry when someone's funeral wishes aren't adhered to, and think, do they not realise how stupidly expensive it all is? Unless it has been saved for, how can anyone expect any kind of elaborate send-off. But my father refused to discuss or save for any such thing, and even between us four daughters it nearly bankrupted us carrying out his wishes, particularly since money wrangles went on with his business partner for years afterwards.

I don't think people should have to suffer at all in their death. I want legalised euthanasia. I want affordable funerals. I want DBH to be allowed to cremate me in recycled floorboards if that is what he wishes. And when my sisters pick my hymns, I know they will choose 'I am the Lord of the Dance' just as we did when my father died. It was his favourite hymn and it annoyed the vicar intensely. grin I will let my sisters choose the hymns, if any, because it's so awful to go to a funeral where no-one knows the words. Or maybe I could ask them now. Maybe I shall.