The Good Funeral Guide Blog

Final act of love

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

 

 

Martin and Julie Chatfield run one of Britain’s loveliest natural burial grounds. 

Yesterday’s funeral featured this hand-painted cardboard coffin. 

It was sourced by David Albery, of Exeter and District Funeral Services (a GFG recommended funeral director), who was looking after Catherine. The family took it home and painted it, then handed it back to David, who did the needful. On  the day of the funeral he brought Catherine to Martin and Julie’s log cabin at the burial ground, and left. 

The family arrived and decorated the cabin. Martin showed them how to carry and lower the coffin, and pointed out the grave, which was bedded with lovely bright wheat straw. He then left them to it.

A little later,  humanist celebrant Alison Orchard arrived. There was a ceremony, then the coffin was borne by members of the family to the grave. A few last words were spoken and the coffin lowered. 

Alison left. The family had a cuppa and a bite to eat back at the log cabin before departing.

So ended a funeral owned by a self-empowered family, facilitated by sensitive, hands-off professionals.

The person who painted the coffin wants it to be an inspiration to others.

So do, please, leave a comment. He’ll be reading this and deserves to know how lovely it is. 

Click the pictures to bring them up to full size. 

Find Martin and Julie’s burial ground, Crossways, here

Find David Albery here

 

 

13 comments on “Final act of love

  1. Thursday 19th January 2012 at 9:43 pm

    Beautifully balanced ‘decoration’ – and I mean artwork. It is not easy to cover such a big surface and still make it look cohesive. Big lettering really works, and I love how this is done. But it’s a brave thing to attempt and needs skill to make it gorgeous like this.

  2. Thursday 19th January 2012 at 9:34 am

    How inspiring and fitting. I will definitely share this as I have been thinking a lot about how to take the next step forward in encouraging people to take more control. Getting candles, photos and other things into the crem has been great but it could all be so much better and these examples really help people to see what’s possible. If there are any Essex FDs out there interested in supporting this kind of family led funeral let me know!

  3. Clare

    Wednesday 18th January 2012 at 8:50 pm

    Perfect and beautiful my kind of funeral. Far more healing for the family to be able to tenderly decorate the ‘covering for her body’ (I like that too)and lay her to rest in a beautiful personal gift from them.
    Yesterday I assisted (when they needed me) a family with their fathers funeral, the gentleman had requested me as I had taken his beloved wife to her funeral in Oct 08. It was really lovely they all hugged and kissed me like an extra family member attending the service. Their parents last wishes were that they didnt want any ‘crows’ at the funeral. (Meaning funeral directors and bossy folk in funeral attire)
    Stourbridge Crematorium allowed the family to come and do it their way just as they had done for his wife which is very refreshing and unusual!
    Family carried out the service themselves and it was beautiful.
    I wish more people knew they can do this, I guess we’ll all have to keep plugging away it it.

  4. Wednesday 18th January 2012 at 6:34 pm

    Brilliant.

  5. Martin

    Wednesday 18th January 2012 at 1:36 pm

    The deceased’s husband decorated the coffin himself and when we asked if we could share the photo with others, his reply was “If it will help others and show them that anything is possible funeralwise please do”
    He also offered to paint coffins for others, so there might be more beautiful coffins like this to come.

  6. Wednesday 18th January 2012 at 11:13 am

    Wonderful. Congratulations to all those involved in facilitating this, including, importantly, David, for not trying to take control.

  7. Kathryn Edwards

    Wednesday 18th January 2012 at 10:47 am

    Yes, beautiful, in every dimension.

    It seems perhaps a little strange to say this, as I am not connected with Catherine or her family . . . but it seems to me that the ‘quality’ of the beauty is skilfully pitched: it is resonant and clear, while yet free of any hooks that might increase the difficulty of committing the entirety to the distancing, enfolding earth.

    And that is art indeed.

  8. Wednesday 18th January 2012 at 10:41 am

    Fran, how eloquently you put it! Beautifully expressed.

    Readers may be interested to know that Fran is Chair of the Natural Death Centre, and Rupert Callender a trustee. It is the pioneering work of the NDC which has opened so many people’s minds to an understanding of how they can create a beautiful, meaningful funeral like this. Find the NDC here: http://www.naturaldeath.org.uk/

  9. Fran Hall

    Wednesday 18th January 2012 at 10:26 am

    This beautiful object isn’t ‘a coffin’, it’s all the love that Catherine’s family had for her writ large in a stunning personal but public final act of farewell.
    Without doubt the saddest day of committing her body to the earth was eased and illuminated into an unforgettable memory by this lovely covering for her body and the gentle support of the professionals involved.

    If only every family out there knew they could have a similar experience – then we would all be in a better world.

  10. Wednesday 18th January 2012 at 9:40 am

    Inspirational.

  11. Wednesday 18th January 2012 at 9:38 am

    Martin and Julie do indeed run one of the loveliest natural burial grounds around, and are also two of the loveliest operators. Nothing is too much trouble for either of them, their calm attention to detail means you can focus on the family not things like whether the grave is big enough or not. Also, their simple log cabin is a rarity but such a blessing. Other burial grounds take note!

  12. Vale

    Wednesday 18th January 2012 at 8:48 am

    Caught up as I am on the 20 minute treadmill, reading this is a wonderful reminder of the intimate, less hurried and more loving possibilities that are out there. Beautiful.

  13. X Piry

    Wednesday 18th January 2012 at 7:58 am

    Beautiful!

    Well done to them all and best wishes to them in the future.

Leave a Comment