It’s a side affect of longer lifespans that we become less familiar with the reality of death. It’s always there on TV in action movies and police series and more but death is more a part of our entertainment than part of our everyday life.
The average life expectancy has increased by 10 years since 1970. In 1870 it was approximately half what it is now at around 40 years of age. Death is becoming less of a part of life and many of us don’t know how to talk about it or deal with it. We don’t know how to talk about what we want to happen.
I’m not suggesting death should be our focus but it’s good to give some thoughts to what you want to happen when you die, particularly when there are so many options now. “I don’t care. I’ll be dead.” is an unhelpful response at best for those who are left behind. When burials were the only option and the church ran funerals it was okay to leave things. Now there’s more burial options than you can shake a stick at, there are tree burials and green funerals and traditional burials, you can be cremated and your remains can be scattered or made into pencils or pressed into jewellery, or made into a vinyl record, or made into fireworks and the list goes on. If you make some decisions before hand family have a much easier time and can focus on grieving rather than second guessing you.
With all this in mind Swanmore Methodist Church hosted a Dealing with Death training event aimed at running pop up cafes to look at this subject and help people to have those conversations without fear or worry. The workshop was headed by Kathy O’Loughlin from the Southern and Islands Region Learning Network who started the morning with a potted history of death which was an eye opener for many who attended.
The workshop then moved into a café session where attendees were introduced to the Grave Talk cards and spent an hour talking through the varied subjects that come up on them. This worked incredibly well and some groups could have talked into the evening judging by the animated conversations going on. Finally we came back together and talked about how we could take this forward to support our congregations and the local communities. Several of the 20 or more people there mentioned ideas about how they could use the cards and the ideas they’d heard and several more were working through ideas in their heads.
It was a great morning, and as one person said “strangely relaxing”.