‘But I Want a Send Off that Suits Me.’
Imagine a peaceful place, birds singing, bees and butterflies in abundance, wild flowers moving in the breeze, and fresh countryside air.
Now imagine that this is the venue for your funeral, or celebration of life.
Whilst the options for another of life’s great events, the wedding, has evolved to offer almost any conceivable scenario from a pop star impersonator celebrant, to tying the knot underwater, it seems funerals, memorials, or celebrations of life remain traditionally held in churches, crematoriums, village halls or pubs.
What’s more, whilst there are now ‘outside the box’ options for what to do with cremation ashes, for example, painting the remains into a picture, making into jewellery, or shooting into the atmosphere by firework, there isn’t much midway between the quirky and the traditional burial, scattering, or as many do, leaving them at the funeral directors, or worse, on a shelf in the garage!
With 75% of people in the UK now being cremated, and graveyards becoming full, an alternative is essential.
It seems though, as if this gap may about to be filled, by the building of a Round Barrow. On the Northamptonshire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire border, a farmer has taken the unusual step of opening up his working farm, to build a Barrow for ashes storage and, offer rural funerals.
Round Barrows or tumuli were first built in the UK around 5000 years ago, and can be found all over the country, a number being sited around Stone Henge. 5000 years ago, they were erected over graves, but the modern ones offer individual niches for urns.
Richard and Sarah, owners of Mid-England Barrow, said ‘the modern barrow offers a final resting place of peace and tranquility, built from locally sourced stone, handshaped to fit each and every spot. Inside its cool environment or aura, gives a breathtaking sense of mystery, and that rare feeling when a shiver goes down your spine’.
Sarah added ‘Having paid our respects at a farmer friends non-religious funeral held at a crematorium, we decided a rural venue with the Barrow would be the basis of a new business for us.’
The individual niches, with completely personalised covers are built nestled into the walls by the skilled craftsmen who create these wonderful structures.
(copyright Mid-England Barrow Ltd)
What are the options at the end of my life?
It seems there are very different understandings of the events held at the end of a life. Traditionally, and certainly throughout my lifetime, a gathering with refreshments after a ‘funeral’ was called a wake, but now I realise that this was actually incorrect usage of the word. The dictionary definition of a ‘wake’ is ‘to hold a vigil beside someone who has died’ and the Funeral Guide says ‘it was felt that someone should always guard over the deceased to keep evil spirits at bay.’ Several other descriptions refer to the wake being held in the home of the deceased or their family, where people will stay up all night with the body– hence the use of the word ‘wake.’ Virtually all of the accounts include the body being present.
Then there’s the ‘funeral.’ According to the dictionary, a funeral is ‘a ceremony or service held shortly after a person’s death, usually including the burial or cremation. Again, nearly all of the references to funerals state that the body will be present. Traditionally funerals have been held either in church or a place of worship, or at a crematorium. But what if you don’t have, or don’t practice a religion?
Some people, often from my experience, those who have had outstanding careers or have been particularly charitable, have a memorial service. The event is usually held sometime after the death. There are other reasons for holding a memorial service, such as if a large number of people are likely to attend, additional time for travel arrangement etc may be required, or, to avoid a gathering in the depths of winter when travel may be more difficult.
Finally, and far more popularly now, is the ‘celebration of life’, mainly differing from a funeral as the body will not be present. The celebration of life appears to be considered more flexible, and definitely more in keeping with the person and personality of the deceased. It is not now unusual for those attending a celebration to be asked to ‘wear pink’, have food far removed from the traditional sandwiches and cakes, play music and look at photographs or films of the deceased. What is particularly nice about a celebration of life, is that the life lost can truly be celebrated by incorporating the things that person would have loved. Why not have a theme, pets, or a photographer, we’re moving towards ‘anything goes.’
Celebrations of life are definitely favoured by those not practicing religion, but more often, from my experience, many funerals are edging more to celebration than mourning.
That said, there are times when a more traditional event can been used to help with the grieving process.
Whichever event you wish to choose, call it whatever you like, what is most important is that it suits the individual, is as individual as they were, and also, suits the family and friends attending.
Whereas weddings have for some time become more individual, quirky and unique, removed from tradition, events following death have been somewhat left behind, although that is gradually changing.
A number of farmers diversified to offer wedding venues, and now you can also have your celebration of life or funeral on a farm. One such farm is Mid-England Barrow, which, as the name suggests, also has a modern day barrow, for the storage of cremation ashes.
(copyright Mid-England Barrow Ltd)
Have you ever thought how your nearest and dearest will know what you really want when you die?
Like most, you may have had a casual chat with friends and family when the subject came up in conversation, or you may have expressed opinions on what other people have done, but do they really know when the time comes.
One family nearly experienced this the hard way. A relative in his late 80s lost his first wife, and mother of his children, at a young age, and she was interred in the local churchyard. After a number of years, he remarried, and remained so for 20+ years until his second wife passed away. This lady was interred in the churchyard of a neighbouring village. He had been a farmer all his life, and always spoke of a favourite field, where he would like his ashes to be scattered. So, when he passed away, it seemed there were three places, where anyone could argue, he would choose to be. Thankfully he had made his wishes clear in his will, but had he not, I can imagine there may have been some difficult decisions to be made between a number of family members.
Everyone knows it’s a good idea to write a will, whether it’s to ensure the best financial plans are made, provisions made for children, or to ensure your wishes are followed, but how many of us actually do it?
Research states that around 60% of people don’t have a will, and of those that do, a quarter have not been reviewed after changes in circumstance, so may be out of date, and after all, we do sometimes change our minds!
Another alternative, but by no means a replacement for a will, is to make a funeral plan. Not to be confused with pre-paying for your funeral, a funeral plan clearly states your wishes as to exactly how you would like the time after your death to be. Making such a plan can take pressure and stress away from family, and possibly prevent differences of opinions as to what you would have liked.
If you have a will, it is wise to refer to your funeral plan in it, and store them together. If the funeral plan is a stand-alone document, all you need to do is to make sure your close family are aware of its existence.
(copyright Mid-England Barrow Ltd)
A copy of our Funeral Plan guide can be found and downloaded on our Useful Info page.
Mid-England Barrow - An idyllic rural modern-day Round Barrow for the storage of cremation ashes as an alternative to Natural and Woodland Burial. We also provide a unique countryside Funeral venue.