‘Preparing for our Last Wishes’ article in AHH Magazine

'Preparing for our Last Wishes' article in AAH Magazine

Following her recent Last Wishes Workshop, an article in AHH Magazine features Jean Francis, who explains how grieving families need not be restricted to expensive coffins, traditional church services and gleaming hearses. Read or download an Acrobat PDF version of the full article here.

Jean will host another Last Wishes Workshop in Horsham, West Sussex, on Saturday 16 November from 10.30am to 4pm. Booking is essential on 01403 273 754 or visit the Last Wishes Workshop page for more information here.

Fur Therapy

In human years my beautiful retriever Ozzie is 105, considerably older than any of the residents in a nearby rest home that we visit.

We visit on a regular basis where Ozzie offers ‘fur therapy’ to residents, many who have had beloved pets but been forced to re-home them due to needing full time care themselves. A situation I would find devastating.

With their full attention on my four legged friend, we chat and I am constantly amazed how quickly people open up emotionally and share their problems, grievances and often their resentment at having had to give up their independence and in many cases their wish to die.

I feel so blessed to have found a way into the lives of these dear folk – all thanks to Ozzie. Because he is the focus of attention he allows spiritual counselling to take place in a relaxed matter-of-fact way. Wherever people are sitting, either in the main lounge, the garden or in their own rooms, we potter casually around, stopping if anyone wishes to connect with us.

Discovering ways to turn negativity around under limiting circumstances is an on-going and fascinating challenge. We discuss peoples’ amazing lives, look at photographs and recall happy memories, many of which include family pets.

We are all currently busy collecting funny poetry to share. This creates laughter and in turn leads to feelings of well-being. After all, laughter has to be the best medicine, not forgetting the ‘fur factor.’

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

 Miracles do happen…

I picked up a card bearing a butterfly and was asked what does a butterfly mean to you? I thought for a moment and replied “freedom.”

I would have signed up for the One Spirit training years ago had it not been for my rapidly deteriorating eye sight. I was eventually told by my ophthalmologist that nothing could be done to improve the situation. I had already given up driving and could no longer see to cross the road safely, let alone thread a needle. It was at this point I decided to apply for a guide dog but thanks to modern technology a miracle took place.

At my next eye check, I was given the incredible news that a new procedure was available that may improve my sight. With little to lose, I embraced this news open- Continue reading

Freedom and Jeff

Skip your eye drops this morning and read this instead.

This is the kind of story you need when  it seems like the world is spiraling out of control.  Not many people can get a picture of this proud bird  snuggled up to them!

Freedom and Jeff  Freedom and I have been together 11 years this summer. She came in as a baby in 1998 with two broken wings. 
Her left wing doesn’t open all the way even after surgery,  it was broken in 4 places.  She’s my baby.

When Freedom came in, she could not stand and both wings were broken.  She was emaciated and covered in lice. 
We made the decision to give her a chance at life, so I took her to the vet’s office.  From then on, I was always around her. 
We had her in a huge dog carrier with the top off, and it was loaded up with shredded newspaper for her to lay in.  I used to sit and talk to her, urging her to live, to fight;  and she would lay there looking at me with those big brown eyes.  We also had to tube feed her for weeks.

This went on for 4-6 weeks, and by then she still couldn’t stand.  It got to the point where the decision was made to euthanize her if she couldn’t stand in a week. 
You know you don’t want to cross that line between torture and rehab, and it looked like death was winning. She was going to be put down that Friday, and I was supposed to come in on that Thursday afternoon. I didn’t want to go to the center that Thursday, because I couldn’t bear the thought of her being euthanized; but I went anyway, and when I walked in everyone was grinning from ear to ear.
 
I went immediately back to her cage; and there she was, standing on her own, a big beautiful eagle. She was ready to live. I was just about in tears by then. That was a very good day. We knew she could never fly, so the director asked me to glove train her. I got her used to the glove, and then to jesses, and we started doing education programs for schools in western Washington. We wound up in the newspapers, radio (believe it or not) and some TV.  Miracle Pets even did a show about us.

In the spring of 2000, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  I had stage 3, which is not good (one major organ plus everywhere), so I wound up doing 8 months of chemo.  Lost the hair – the whole bit. I missed a lot of work. When I felt good enough, I would go to Sarvey and take Freedom out for walks. Freedom would also come to me in my dreams and help me fight the cancer. This happened time and time again. Fast forward to November 2000. The day after Thanksgiving, I went in for my last checkup. I was told that if the cancer was not all gone after 8 rounds of chemo, then my last option was a stem cell transplant.

Anyway, they did the tests; and I had to come back  Monday for the results. I went in Monday,  and I was told that all the cancer was gone. So the first thing I did was get up to Sarvey and take the big girl out for a walk. It was misty and cold. I went to her flight and jessed her up, and we went out front to the top of the hill. I hadn’t said a word to Freedom, but somehow she knew.  She looked at me and wrapped both her wings around me to where I could feel them pressing in on my back (I was engulfed in eagle wings), and she touched my nose with her beak and stared into my eyes, and we just stood there like that for I don’t know how long.
 
That was a magic moment. We have been soul mates ever since she came in. This is a very special bird. On a side note:  I have had people who were sick come up to us when we are out, and Freedom has some kind of hold on them. I once had a guy who was terminal come up to us and I let him hold her. His knees just about buckled and he swore he could feel her power course through his body. I have so many stories like that. I never forget the honor I have of being so close to such a magnificent spirit as Freedom!! Hope you enjoyed this!

Returned Favour…

All eyes were on the radiant bride as her father escorted her down
the aisle. They reached the altar and the waiting groom.

The bride kissed her father and placed something in his hand.

The guests in the front pews responded with ripples of laughter.

Even the priest smiled broadly.     As her father gave her away in
marriage, the bride gave him back his credit card.

Jean’s “Down to Earth” feature in GreenSpirit

GreenSpirit Winter 2016 (article featuring Jean Francis)

An article by OneSpirit minister Jean Francis, featured in the Winter edition of GreenSpirit magazine 2016, highlights the benefits of planning one’s funeral well in advance. It includes the moving case study of a man who planned his own funeral to reflect his love of Nature, Goddess spirituality and Native American culture. Read the full article here or click the images (Acrobat PDF format, 4MB).Green Spirit Winter Edition

A Ceremony to Honour Later Life in Horsham District

Horsham Circle of Life Festival, Opening Celebration -May 28th

It was at a meeting at the Drill Hall last autumn that the then, chairman of Age UK Horsham, Denis Cummins asked the question: ‘Has anyone got any ideas as to how we can ‘Celebrate Later Life in Horsham District?’ I put my hand up and the opening ceremony for Horsham Circle of Life Festival was the result. The week-long Festival was opened by Cllr. Kate Rowbottom and the afternoon included music, song and story-telling to feed the soul, also the following ceremony, led by Jean Francis – OneSpirit Interfaith minister.

‘Today, we are gathered, to honour and acknowledge ‘Later Life in Horsham District.’ I would like to recall some of the pearls of wisdom that have been shared with me, while collecting ideas for this ceremony.

 

I Googled:  ‘What is an elder’ and the answer came up: ‘An elder is someone who has earned respect from their community for their wisdom and knowledge.’

 

‘Most elders within our community will have experienced Continue reading

A Wedding Blessing that includes a Water Ritual

 

It was my privilege recently to officiate at a wedding blessing ceremony for a young couple. I have know Sally, the bride since she was a little girl, now here she was a beautiful young woman.

 

Sally and Tim were married in Santorini, with views of the caldera, the Mediterranean Sea and the setting sun, surrounded by loved ones. On their return the couple held a party for their relatives and many friends. Continue reading

Rock ‘n’ Roll Cream Tea

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Scones and Cream

Saturday June 4th
3 pm – 5.30 pm

Horsham Circle of Life, closing celebration, includes a healing ceremony led by Anthea Ballam, with Judith Silver and the harmonious tones of Companion Voices. An opportunity for those touched by loss, to remember loved ones during a candle lighting ceremony and celebrate LIFE.
The week-long Festival culminates on a high with a pop / rock set as Chilli Custard presents Razia and Friends.
Proceeds from the raffle will be donated to Cancer Research UK.

Venue: The Drill Hall, Denne Road, Horsham, RH12 1JF.
Tickets: £12.50 available at the door – includes tea, scones, jam and cream.