My Funeral Plan – Rev. Alyson Carter

When I reached, and moved on from my 70th Birthday, it began to dawn on me – initially, very gently – that something had changed. There was an inevitable and new milestone on the horizon ahead of me and I began to ‘practice’ thinking about’ Endings.’  Because familiarising myself with this took time to take root, initially, I shied away from facing these things to begin with.  But through allowing them to settle in me and become comfortable, and as the years rolled by and I approached eighty, I realised that with one son and his family approaching a time of fulfillment in their lives and planning to spend more time in Europe, and my younger son living in the US, I needed to take responsibility for my own future: for their sakes.

In the natural course of events and family records, I guessed I had a maximum of ten years and began to make lists of my favourite music and writings.   Over Time, again, these changed inevitably, until I felt sure I had found the things I wanted to include in any Funeral or Celebration ceremony that might follow my dying.

Then one morning – like any other morning- I felt moved to find out about the Natural Death Centre and from their website I discovered that one of their funeral directors was based in the town where I live.   The rest became a quite surprisingly joyful experience.   The staff I spoke with about it all were so kind, sensitive and thoughtful.   They told me about the availability of Natural Burial here in Dorset.   I had already found the premises where I wanted to hold the ‘Celebration of my life.’    We discussed in depth the impact of cremation on the planet and any additional inclusions I might want.   They guided my thinking and made sensitive suggestions in answer to my many questions. 

As I moved into the experience of making this ‘real’ the ceremony changed as the ‘shape’ of the celebration altered in light of my increasing knowledge.  The reality of what I was doing deepened.   I found I felt increasingly relieved.  The experience itself helped me come to terms with the fact of my dying, making of this a reality of which I am no longer afraid.  I was able to write to my Funeral Director saying how sad I was that I wouldn’t be present to experience his gentle and sensitive care to my’ needs’ when my time came.

I find there is a feeling of achievement at having completed this.   The fact that this final celebration is settled has lightened my day.   There is a sense of relief and comfort that I have helped my family at a time of grief for them, and enabled everyone professionally engaged in carrying out this final ritual to support them with loving care and sympathy to complete the final, gentle task of a long, very full life.    I feel wiser for having undertaken this experience.   It has acquired a fullness of meaning, together with profound gratitude to all who have helped me.          

Alyson Carter