Guest post by Fran Hall, Chair of Trustees, the Natural Death Centre
Readers of the GFG Blog are many and myriad – for the few of us who stir ourselves to comment on the superb diet served up daily by the ragged-trousered philanthropists Messrs Cowling and Honeysett, and their regular contributors, (not least the Friday treat penned by Lyra Mollington, the most articulate funeral-goer in the UK), there are countless hundreds of others who check the blog daily to see what latest snippet of death related news has been uploaded.
Celebrants and undertakers, priests and palliative care workers, the curious general public, big industry observers and the lawyers of Co-operative Funeralcare alike, we all have a reason to find our way to this site to stay in touch with what is going on in this strange, unique and peculiar world of death to which all humans ultimately will find their way, and which most of the Western World spend their lives busily ignoring.
At The Natural Death Centre Charity, we have long admired this blog – the dedication and knowledge that lies behind it and the audacity with which it speaks out for the rights and needs of both those who have died and those left behind. We applaud those who dare to challenge the status quo, and who uphold and advocate change for the better in every aspect of dying and funerals, and the Good Funeral Guide creators are a fine example of this – we are proud to call them our friends and allies in the growing movement for improvement in the way we do death.
Things are a-changing, albeit slowly, and this is much to do with the work done both by the GFG and by the NDC over the years. Back in 1991, the Natural Death Centre was founded by the late, great Nicholas Albery, his wife Josefine and a colleague, Christianne Heal. Their vision was for the NDC to provide a meeting place and a forum for ideas about how to make death more a part of life – to provoke a revolution. Over the years many like-minded people supported the work of the NDC, and the little charity with a loud voice has continued to try and make a difference for those approaching their own deaths, or who have had someone close to them die.
This year is the 21st birthday year of the NDC – the coming of age, and the six of us who run it have great plans for celebrating. Not only do we have the long awaited publication of the Fifth Edition of The Natural Death Handbook coming up next month (more of that to follow in another post), but we have launched a new initiative – the Natural Death Society.
Open to anyone who believes that death is a natural part of life, and that we should all be empowered in the process of dying and organising a funeral, the Society has been created to bring together people who share the same belief in our human right to approach death with the same freedom that we live our lives.
The idea behind it is to take Nicholas’s original idea forward in our internet savvy world – bringing people together ‘virtually’ at least, giving them a forum for debate, information as it is discovered, and identifying them as those most dedicated to forging a better way.
Everyone joining the Society will get a complimentary copy of the new three book box set Handbook, a Natural Death Centre Information Pack ( including invaluable documents and guidance for those contemplating their own death or that of someone close to them), access to the Friends Forum on the NDC website, discounted tickets for educational events and workshops run by the Natural Death Centre, regular newsletters and updates on subjects of interest – oh, and a membership certificate and lapel pin!
The Society is also a way of helping fund the work of the NDC for those who believe in what we do – every month we receive hundreds of calls and e-mails from people looking for help and information, while the website receives 7 – 10,000 visitors monthly. The charity operates on a shoestring, reliant on the generosity of donors and subscriptions from natural burial association members, and without the hard work of the trustees (all unpaid) and the dedication and commitment of our two great part time staff (who do at least twice as much work as we can afford to pay them for), the NDC would have slipped into oblivion long ago.
Just as the Good Funeral Guide must stay in existence, so too must the Natural Death Centre – together pushing and prodding the funeral industry and the public alike towards a better way of dealing with death. By introducing the Society, with an initial £20.00 donation and just a £2.00 monthly donation thereafter, the NDC will be able to use the money generated to extend the work that we do and to reach even more people across the UK.
I think Nicholas Albery would approve – he was a great believer in tribes. The Natural Death Society is a tribe in the making for those of us who share the same values – and in honour of our good friends at the GFG, and our appreciation of all that you do (and in recognition of the pecuniary disadvantage of spending all your time slaving over a computer so that we readers can benefit for free) we will be sending Charles and Richard a tribal gift – the only two honorary memberships of the Society.
Welcome on board!
Find the Natural Death Centre here.