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Friday 16 December 2011

Good grief

When I was at the End of Life Forum in Croke Park in October, a lady who had been through a lot for her years, spoke very courageously about her own experiences with death and loss. Most in the audience were moved to tears with her words. One aspect of what she said remained with me. When speaking of the tragedy of losing a baby to still birth she spoke of how people, in an effort to provide comfort in some way, would say “sure at least you didn’t get to meet him” or “at least you didn’t bond with him yet”.
In Ireland we have an innate need to comfort one another with tea, tea and more tea. But while we do want to comfort we do not know how to deal with grief and those grieving, and I am generalizing here of course. But on the most part we could all identify a time where we, or someone we know, has uttered the words “Call me if you need anything” or “at least he wasn’t in pain” or “surrounded by ones she loved”.
When it comes to handling bereavement in Ireland we have a tendency to avoid the subject or, worse, the person who is bereaved. Sure, we may offer assistance or a ‘shoulder to cry on’ for a time but what we really want is for the person to stop grieving, stop being in pain and return to normality. Why we do this I don’t know, perhaps we don’t want our loved ones to feel pain but perhaps it is a stark reminder to us how fragile life can be.
Once the bereaved are returning to a form of normality it is assumed that they are resuming their lives but this isn’t always the case. It can take any number of months or years to release the pain of a loss. A dear friend of mine once told me how she felt lost over a year after the death of her younger brother. At this point, most people have vacated the ‘grief circle of support’ and forgotten she still needed that support.
Talking about the deceased can help, there should never be a fear around mentioning memories or names. Emotional outbursts that ensue can help the healing process. Ignoring the bereaved or the deceased will not help the situation.
According to The Irish Hospice Foundation more than 270,000 people are newly bereaved each year in Ireland. In response to this they have recently launched Europe's first website providing online training in bereavement support. The first e-learning course priced at 15 euro is called Lost for Words. There is also a DVD available for 20 euro. Here is a video about bereavement at this time of year (Christmas).

Video from Irish Hospice Foundation, Dr Susan Delaney

Monday 28 November 2011

A funeral named Suicide

With recent death of Gary Speed at the weekend, the online and offline media world has been dissecting every part of his life and death. It was announced by the Football Association of Wales that Gary Speed hung himself on November 27th 2011. 

When someone we love takes their own life, it can be so painful for those left behind as they focus on why and how they could have changed the course of events if only they had known. Grief, guilt and anger are emotions that will play a huge part in the days, weeks and months following the death.

The funeral should focus on understanding and empathizing the family’s grief and refrain from rationalization and explanation. The family of a suicide fatality needs comfort. Arrange for loved ones to share good memories about his/her life. Humorous stories are appropriate as they will lift the mood, if even momentarily. If possible, have them write out their comments, as this will prevent any inappropriateness, however unintended, that may cause additional hurt or pain to the family.

It is also important to note that people from different cultural backgrounds are likely to have different ideas about where a person should be buried or where the remains of a dead person should be scattered. If in doubt, contact your local undertaker, church, society or us at Farewell Funeral Planners.

Thursday 17 November 2011

Deathly Cosmetics

Illamasqua have joined forces with Leverton & Sons Funeral Home in London to create what they call the Final Act of Self-Expression. A service, which can be booked as part of a pre-arranged service with the funeral home and costs from £450.
Illamasque say "This unique service encourages people for whom making-up is an intimate part of their identity to plan their final transformation - one that pays tribute to who they were in life and how they want to enter the afterlife ..."
They claim to be ‘encouraging people to self-express and embrace their alter ego in every way’.

So what is involved in post mortem make up? Although law does not require embalming, from a cosmetic view it is preferable that the person is embalmed because appearance is improved. There is a base tint that is often used which looks like a dark orange coloured liquid, and it’s a tint you can brush on the face to remove the ashen look. From there you can use any kind of makeup. Cadaver makeup can be very thick and is quite comparable to theatre makeup. Lipstick, blush and Mascara would be the usual requirements.

Men are usually quite easy because they don’t usually wear makeup in life. So with males, they would get some form of base and that’s it. There can be racial differences too.

It is a celebration of life, and one that could be indulged for your last glamorous look.

Friday 11 November 2011

A final Farewell to Ned Kelly

The 19th-century bushranger Notorious Ned Kelly will get a final farewell at a private funeral 130 years after he was hanged in a Victorian jail for shooting a policeman. This week, Kelly's family received the news they were hoping for - that his last wish to be buried with his family would come true.

But as in his short life, there is controversy in his death. His grave will no doubt attract tourists from far and wide and fans of his story and the books and films that his story is depicted in, will have an interest in visiting his final resting place too. A legendary and almost mythical figure, Kelly is regarded by some as a down and out thief and murderer but according to fans of the legend, he was a champion of the underclass in an unforgiving society.

Play more

This was an ad for the Xbox, its frightening in the extreme BUT it does have a point, life is short.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Bill United

At the End of Life Forum in Croke Park last month, we were asked to watch this video and give our thoughts on it, some said it was too simplistic, some said it was patronising.

I personally enjoyed the story, the music, lack of vocals, the childish air to it,
What do you think of it?

Thursday 27 October 2011

A real life love story

An American couple who had been married for 72 years, died one hour apart last week in hospital as they held hands. The story of Iowa natives Gordon, 94, and Norma Yeager, 90, seems a real-life love story.

Their son Dennis Yeager said "They're very old-fashioned. They believed in marriage till death do you part, they just loved being together ”. Dennis describes how the couple left home to go into town, but didn't make it. At a highway intersection they crashed their car into another. Apparently in the intensive care unit, the nurses knew not to separate Gordon and Norma.

Gordon died at 3:38 pm still holding hands with his wife while their family looked on.

"Neither one of them would've wanted to be without each other. I couldn't figure out how it was going to work," said a family member. "We were very blessed, honestly, that they went this way."

At their funeral service, Norma and Gordon continued to hold hands in their casket. They were to be cremated and their ashes mixed together.

The inseparable couple got engaged and married within 12 hours on May 26, 1939 - the same day Norma Yeager graduated from high school.

A family member said "All their life has been together, so, when it came to the funeral home, we asked, 'Can we have them put in the casket together holding hands?' Because that's the way their life was."

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Short and sweet

I love this film and I think the storyline is so special. This video is a quick glimpse of life with Carl and Ellie from the Disney/Pixar film Up.

No matter what age we die, life can seem too short so enjoy every moment of it with the ones you love.

Monday 17 October 2011

QR codes for the dead

Imagine a trip to a cemetery to visit a loved one’s grave and en route you gaze at names and dates that mean absolutely nothing to you. Imagine if instead you could quickly scan a code and be immersed in to the life of the person below with highlights and some interactive media. Added to people that died in wars or long ago could be a valuable way for teaching new generations about wars or other ways in which people used to die that have long been forgotten.
This QR code belongs to a Yoav Medan of Israel, whose mother Judith passed away in June.  Scanning the QR code leads visitors to a tribute website that Medan setup and plans to evolve with stories and photos from his mother’s life.  Over time, Medan hopes the QR code and memorial site will help create a lasting history of his mother that will live on for generations. “I was most concerned about 20 or 40 years from now, how will she be remembered……………what’s in our memory into a place that doesn’t forget,” he said.
The QR code-enabled tombstone is a new technology, which can be added to the growing number of services that have already emerged in the last number of years, to help us identify people in an online capacity.
It is certainly a new way to pay respect to the dead and will certainly suit today’s younger generation who have grown up with Facebook and Twitter and Youtube as means of communication with peers.
Is it too much? Technology gone too far? Or is it in keeping with communications today?

Monday 10 October 2011

Steve Jobs, Thank You

Steve Jobs - computing entrepreneur, inventor, co-founder/chairman/ex CEO/overall face of Apple Inc. and not so well known co-founder and previous CEO of Pixar Animation Studios and a member of the board of directors of the Walt Disney Company, following the acquisition of Pixar by Disney.

Jobs died in California at the age of 56 on October 5, 2011, seven years after his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. He has been widely described as a visionary, a pioneer and a genius in the field of innovation, product design, entertainment and business. More often than not, he has been recognised as the man who has profoundly changed the face of the modern world across at least six different industries. Through his animation studio, Pixar, and films such as Toy Story (1995), he also helped revolutionise the movie industry. Few entrepreneurs – like Henry Ford– have had as much impact.His death was widely mourned across the globe.

Jobs is survived by his wife, Laurene Powell, whom he married in a Buddhist ceremony in 1991, and their children, Reed, Erin and Eve.

His death as announced by Apple:
“We are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Jobs passed away today. Steve's brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives. The world is immeasurably better because of Steve. His greatest love was for his wife, Laurene, and his family. Our hearts go out to them and to all who were touched by his extraordinary gifts.”

Thank you Steve Jobs, for Pixar, Apple and the legacy of innovation, determination and courage you have left behind. Rest in peace now.


Unique Gravestones 15

Friday 30 September 2011

The power of planning

"It’s too early. I’m too young.”

Accepting our mortality is very difficult to do but important that we do it.

Pre-planning a funeral will ultimately save you money but also relieve grieving relatives during a difficult time and even ensure that family tensions don’t interfere with your wishes.

The main difference between a planned funeral and an “at-need” funeral is simply time and pressure.

For sudden death cases, funeral decisions have to be made quickly and during the time when survivors are in the midst of grieving.This can be a difficult time where those grieving do not have the capability to think of how the deceased would have wanted their funeral.

Unique Gravestones 12

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Monday 12 September 2011

Unique Gravestones 4

His lightbulb went out

A thought from Pooh bear

“If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together.. there is something you must always remember. you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. but the most important thing is, even if we're apart.. i'll always be with you.”

This is just beautiful:

Monday 5 September 2011

Ozzy Osbourne wants to celebrate his life

Ozzy Osbourne, the legendary and slightly crazy, heavy metal singer, who can often be heard saying that he is "lucky to be alive" after decades of substance abuse and drinking, wants his funeral to be "a celebration, not a mope-fest."

Ozzy writes a health column for the Sunday Times magazine and it was in this column that the 62-year-old wrote "I don't care what they play at my funeral; they can put on a medley of Justin Bieber, Susan Boyle and We Are The Diddymen if it makes 'em happy — but I do want to make sure it's a celebration, not a mope-fest."

"I'd also like some pranks maybe the sound of knocking inside the coffin, or a video of me asking my doctor for a second opinion on his diagnosis of 'death'.

"There'll be no harping on the bad times. I don't want my funeral to be sad. I want it to be a time to say 'thanks.'"

Stop all the clocks

W. H. Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Consider a funeral...

Unfortunately, funeral planning is something we will all have to do at one point in our lives. Death is inevitable and the one thing that is guaranteed in life but when it comes down to organising a loved one's funeral, how do you do it? Where do you do it? Are you getting good value for money? How do you know? What do you really need and what are unnecessary expenses?
There are 3 basic reasons for considering funerals:
1.      A loved one has passed away suddenly
This can be one of the most difficult times in your life and one of the toughest to make decisions. This traumatic time can be made a little easier with good planning and financial decision-making. Have a look at our website to arm yourself with information on burials, eulogies, charities and finance. Or go one better and give us a call and let us help relieve some of the burden you are carrying.
2.      A loved one has been diagnosed as terminally ill
Planning this type of a funeral can be a difficult but also a healing process. Because you may be working with your loved one on what they would want from their funeral, you will feel more complete knowing that you have done everything as they would have wanted it on the day. Farewell can help work with you and your loved one to make this so and give it that creative, personal touch.
3.      You wish to pre-plan your own funeral

Still a little taboo in Ireland, preplanning your own funeral is growing from strength to strength. In our
opinion, everyone should consider this an important part of planning for the future. Planning for the
future allows you to relax and enjoy the present. Let us know your thoughts.

Thursday 28 July 2011

Drive thru Funerals?!

What is the world coming to?!

Ok so we all know that Funerals can be sad, depressing, overcrowded and there is never enough parking close by.

So in the modern era of innovation and fast food, the solution for this 'issue' is? You guessed it! Or probably not, actually - A drive-thru mortuary!Only in America......

The Robert L. Adams Mortuary in Compton, California, allows the next of kin to place their lost loved one's caskets in a glass display window which is visible to motorists passing through a drive-through lane.
"It's a convenience thing, You don't need to deal with parking. You can sign the book outside, and the family knows that you paid your respects." said Peggy Scott Adams to The Los Angeles Times.


Thursday 30 June 2011

Bruce Springsteen's Eulogy for Clarence Clemons

This is a slightly revised version of the eulogy I delivered for Clarence at his memorial. I'd like to thank all our fans and friends who have comforted us over the past difficult weeks.FOR THE BIG MAN
I've been sitting here listening to everyone talk about Clarence and staring at that photo of the two of us right there. It's a picture of Scooter and The Big Man, people who we were sometimes. As you can see in this particular photo, Clarence is admiring his muscles and I'm pretending to be nonchalant while leaning upon him. I leaned on Clarence a lot; I made a career out of it in some ways.
Those of us who shared Clarence's life, shared with him his love and his confusion. Though "C" mellowed with age, he was always a wild and unpredictable ride. Today I see his sons Nicky, Chuck, Christopher and Jarod sitting here and I see in them the reflection of a lot of C's qualities. I see his light, his darkness, his sweetness, his roughness, his gentleness, his anger, his brilliance, his handsomeness, and his goodness. But, as you boys know your pop was a not a day at the beach. "C" lived a life where he did what he wanted to do and he let the chips, human and otherwise, fall where they may. Like a lot of us your pop was capable of great magic and also of making quite an amazing mess. This was just the nature of your daddy and my beautiful friend. Clarence's unconditional love, which was very real, came with a lot of conditions. Your pop was a major project and always a work in progress. "C" never approached anything linearly, life never proceeded in a straight line. He never went A... B.... C.... D. It was always A... J.... C.... Z... Q... I....! That was the way Clarence lived and made his way through the world. I know that can lead to a lot of confusion and hurt, but your father also carried a lot of love with him, and I know he loved each of you very very dearly.
It took a village to take care of Clarence Clemons. Tina, I'm so glad you're here. Thank you for taking care of my friend, for loving him. Victoria, you've been a loving, kind and caring wife to Clarence and you made a huge difference in his life at a time when the going was not always easy. To all of "C's" vast support network, names too numerous to mention, you know who you are and we thank you. Your rewards await you at the pearly gates. My pal was a tough act but he brought things into your life that were unique and when he turned on that love light, it illuminated your world. I was lucky enough to stand in that light for almost 40 years, near Clarence's heart, in the Temple of Soul.
So a little bit of history: from the early days when Clarence and I traveled together, we'd pull up to the evening's lodgings and within minutes "C" would transform his room into a world of his own. Out came the colored scarves to be draped over the lamps, the scented candles, the incense, the patchouli oil, the herbs, the music, the day would be banished, entertainment would come and go, and Clarence the Shaman would reign and work his magic, night after night. Clarence's ability to enjoy Clarence was incredible. By 69, he'd had a good run, because he'd already lived about 10 lives, 690 years in the life of an average man. Every night, in every place, the magic came flying out of C's suitcase. As soon as success allowed, his dressing room would take on the same trappings as his hotel room until a visit there was like a trip to a sovereign nation that had just struck huge oil reserves. "C" always knew how to live. Long before Prince was out of his diapers, an air of raunchy mysticism ruled in the Big Man's world. I'd wander in from my dressing room, which contained several fine couches and some athletic lockers, and wonder what I was doing wrong! Somewhere along the way all of this was christened the Temple of Soul; and "C" presided smilingly over its secrets, and its pleasures. Being allowed admittance to the Temple's wonders was a lovely thing.
As a young child my son Sam became enchanted with the Big Man... no surprise. To a child Clarence was a towering fairy tale figure, out of some very exotic storybook. He was a dreadlocked giant, with great hands and a deep mellifluous voice sugared with kindness and regard. And... to Sammy, who was just a little white boy, he was deeply and mysteriously black. In Sammy's eyes, "C" must have appeared as all of the African continent, shot through with American cool, rolled into one welcoming and loving figure. So... Sammy decided to pass on my work shirts and became fascinated by Clarence's suits and his royal robes. He declined a seat in dad's van and opted for "C's" stretch limousine, sitting by his side on the slow cruise to the show. He decided dinner in front of the hometown locker just wouldn't do, and he'd saunter up the hall and disappear into the Temple of Soul.
Of course, also enchanted was Sam's dad, from the first time I saw my pal striding out of the shadows of a half empty bar in Asbury Park, a path opening up before him; here comes my brother, here comes my sax man, my inspiration, my partner, my lifelong friend. Standing next to Clarence was like standing next to the baddest ass on the planet. You were proud, you were strong, you were excited and laughing with what might happen, with what together, you might be able to do. You felt like no matter what the day or the night brought, nothing was going to touch you. Clarence could be fragile but he also emanated power and safety, and in some funny way we became each other's protectors; I think perhaps I protected "C" from a world where it still wasn't so easy to be big and black. Racism was ever present and over the years together, we saw it. Clarence's celebrity and size did not make him immune. I think perhaps "C" protected me from a world where it wasn't always so easy to be an insecure, weird and skinny white boy either. But, standing together we were badass, on any given night, on our turf, some of the baddest asses on the planet. We were united, we were strong, we were righteous, we were unmovable, we were funny, we were corny as hell and as serious as death itself. And we were coming to your town to shake you and to wake you up. Together, we told an older, richer story about the possibilities of friendship that transcended those I'd written in my songs and in my music. Clarence carried it in his heart. It was a story where the Scooter and the Big Man not only busted the city in half, but we kicked ass and remade the city, shaping it into the kind of place where our friendship would not be such an anomaly. And that... that's what I'm gonna miss. The chance to renew that vow and double down on that story on a nightly basis, because that is something, that is the thing that we did together... the two of us. Clarence was big, and he made me feel, and think, and love, and dream big. How big was the Big Man? Too fucking big to die. And that's just the facts. You can put it on his grave stone, you can tattoo it over your heart. Accept it... it's the New World.
Clarence doesn't leave the E Street Band when he dies. He leaves when we die.
So, I'll miss my friend, his sax, the force of nature his sound was, his glory, his foolishness, his accomplishments, his face, his hands, his humor, his skin, his noise, his confusion, his power, his peace. But his love and his story, the story that he gave me, that he whispered in my ear, that he allowed me to tell... and that he gave to you... is gonna carry on. I'm no mystic, but the undertow, the mystery and power of Clarence and my friendship leads me to believe we must have stood together in other, older times, along other rivers, in other cities, in other fields, doing our modest version of god's work... work that's still unfinished. So I won't say goodbye to my brother, I'll simply say, see you in the next life, further on up the road, where we will once again pick up that work, and get it done.
Big Man, thank you for your kindness, your strength, your dedication, your work, your story. Thanks for the miracle... and for letting a little white boy slip through the side door of the Temple of Soul.
I'm gonna leave you today with a quote from the Big Man himself, which he shared on the plane ride home from Buffalo, the last show of the last tour. As we celebrated in the front cabin congratulating one another and telling tales of the many epic shows, rocking nights and good times we'd shared, "C" sat quietly, taking it all in, then he raised his glass, smiled and said to all gathered, "This could be the start of something big."
Love you, "C".

Sunday 5 June 2011

Celebrity Passing

Worldwide, we have lost a few celebrities from the showbiz, sporting and political world and they each experienced very different send offs:

On our own turf we sadly lost the late, great Garret Fitzgerald who was laid to rest at Shanganagh Cemetery in Co Dublin. All ten of Dr Fitzgerald's grandchildren played a role in the mass, which although a state funeral, encapsulated the very tender, emotional and caring gentleman, father and grandfather that he truly was. A photograph on the cover of the service booklet captured his personality to perfection - showing him, poised with reading glasses in hand. In front of him stood his beloved books and with a twinkle  in his eyes we can see a whisper of a smile, that tells all and nothing at once, playing on his lips. 

The wrestling world lost one of their nearest and dearest in 'Macho man' Randy Savage
Randy Savage was cremated in May and his ashes were strewn at the base of a tree near his Florida home. In compliance with his final wishes, which ,according to his brother Lanny Poffo, he was adament about, the family did not play his trademark wrestling theme music 'Pomp and Circumstance' during the ceremony. This music Randy claimed to be rightfully his idol's and felt he had somehow stole his thunder by using it. His funeral was his last way of paying his respect.

Muriel's Wedding  and Strictly Ballroom Star Bill Hunter
When over 350 people applauded, cheered and launched their hats in the air at Bill Hunter's funeral, you knew he was a well respected and cared-for member of society and the acting world. The post ceremony celebration of his life was fuelled with cold beer and accompanied by his many near and dear friends and family. Australian glitterati also showed up in droves including Arts Minister Simon Crean who reminisced about the award-winning actor, describing him as 'an entertaining character who had lived a full life and been divorced twice!'.

Gil Scott-Heron
The funeral of the 'godfather of rap' took place in New York City and ended with a tribute performance from Kanye West. The rapper appeared at the memorial service at Harem's Riverside Church to give a rendition of 'Lost in the World', which uses a sample of Gil's recorded poem 'Comment 1'.

So whether it is a tribute by Kanye West, sprinkling of your ashes somewhere that means the world to you, a party or just to be remembered and spoken about by the people you love, it's worthwhile to take a moment and think about how you would like your life remembered after death.

Friday 3 June 2011

Funeral Rituals

There are an increasing variety of funeral rituals in the world. But the big question is, given the choice, which would you pick?? So with a little bit of research on the varying degree of rituals that people are developing I came up with this list:

  • You could have your loved one cremated and the remains turned into a diamond- my choice but expensive ;)
  • You could also follow the Swedes and immerse the body in liquid nitrogen
  • You could follow American rule and have the body “digested” in alkali - nice!
  • You could take DNA from your loved one and splice it into the DNA of a tree so that you live on in the tree
  • Or there is also this one, which is quite cool - have your remains mixed with gunpowder and used as fireworks!
  • Finally there is based in Georgia which places your loved one in a reefball and they rest forever at the bottom of the sea

Wednesday 1 June 2011


And no, not the band for a change!

How many of you have sat and thought about you and your life?
How many of you have thought about what you have accomplished in the past?
How many of you have thought about where you are going in life?
Or how you will be remembered for that life?

Maybe it's just me, but I think about this stuff all the time. I don't have any children, nor do I imagine I will have for the next few years at least. I often think of the future and wonder what will happen. I know I will always want those around me - friends and family, to think that I'm doing a good job, that I've achieved something for my life.I will always want them to remember me, never forget the impact (minor or major) I had on their lives.

For some of people, it might be hard to think about life, and where it has grown and where it is heading because as we all know too well, someday that lovely life will end. It will have come full circle and you will be forced to leave behind loved ones. But I truly believe that, in thinking about life and where it has come from and where it is going to, you recognise your journey and with every breath you fulfill your journey and the goals you set out for yourself.

Without an end, there can be no beginning. So take a moment, think about life and think about how you would best want to be remembered. I guarantee, as soon as you begin to consider the end, you will enjoy the journey alot more!