Funeral Customs part 3

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Fancy hearing some more bizarre funeral rituals that go beyond a traditional burial with marble headstones?

Jewish mourners will take part in a mourning ritual known as ‘sitting shiva’. This is where friends and family will go to the Shiva house and mourn for 7 days. A candle will be lit and all mirrors will be covered so they can concentrate on the mourning. This occurs immediately after the body is buried.

Hindu’s today will make their final pilgrimage to die in the city of Banaras on the Ganges River. This is where it is believed the cycle of death is broken and the soul will ascend to the world of their ancestors – Pitriloka. Over 80 funeral pyres are present along the river so the dead can be cremated although often this isn’t possible and the dead bodies will simply float down the river.

Some African tribes would fire spears and arrows over the dead to ward of evil spirits, these days a rifle is shot over the deceased and this is to mirror the age old practice.

In Japan, when a nobleman died, a whopping twenty to thirty slaves would be made to commit Hari Kari (the process of belly cutting) as a sign of respect. Friends and wives along with slaves would even be strangled in Fiji to honour the deceased.

In some areas of China they believe that the more people that attend your funeral and stand over your headstones the more luck will be bestowed on your relatives. The Chinese have even gone as far as hiring strippers to the after tears party in order for the whole event to be more popular.

Posted on August 17th 2010 in Death and Dying, Spirituality

Funeral Customs part 2

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In the last blog I spoke about a few funeral customs that are a tad different to our traditional memorial in a church, burial with Gravestones and then wake to follow.

In some cultures men and women are treated entirely differently when it comes to what happens when they die. The Bongas buried men with their faces to the North whilst women faced the South. The Ghonds buried their women but cremated their men and the Cochieans buried their women and suspended their men from trees.

Before 1829 in Hindu India, a widow was considered useless without her husband so was expected to lie next to him and be cremated alive. The ritual known as Sati was believed to give the woman a free passage to heaven and purify her. It was abolished, however even as late as 1981; a recorded Sati occurred with an 18 year old widow.

The Greek historian Herodotus claimed that the Calatians ate their own dead believing it to be a sacred duty of the family. Queen Artemisia is said to have even mixed the ashes of her lover with wine and drunk it.

Fantasy coffins are becoming increasingly popular in Ghana. Coffins are being carved into everything from airplanes to motor cars, cigarettes to bottles of beer. I wonder what they would do to headstones given half a chance.
Closer to home, in the Scottish highlands the deceased would be buried with a little salt and soil which would be placed on their chest. The soil was symbolic of the body decaying and becoming one with earth whilst the salt represented the soul which never decays or dies.

Posted on August 15th 2010 in Death and Dying, Spirituality

Funeral Customs part 1

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In England, our funeral customs are fairly traditional. Either a burial or cremation takes place. If a burial occurs, the body is left in the ground peacefully often with memorial gravestones at the head for respect. With cremations, the body is given back to the family in an urn for them to do as they wish. Other cultures and countries have some slightly more bizarre customs.

In Tibet, Buddhists believe that when you die, your soul leaves your body so the body is no longer needed to be respected or cared for. They choose to give the body back to the land by dismembering the body and leaving it high on a rock for the vultures to eat.

In Northern Vietnam the bodies are buried in the back garden of the deceased family but only after two years of it being buried in a paddy field. The body is then dug up, the bones cleaned and then re buried in the garden.

In ancient Rome, the eldest male relative would make sure he caught the last breath of the dying person.

In Madagascar, they have ceremonies called Famadihana. This is where they dig up the dead, parade the bones around the village and then in a new shroud bury the remains. The old shroud is then given to childless newlyweds who should place it on their bed to help with fertility.

There are many more so check out the next blog. It certainly makes our funeral customs and UK Gravestones seem a nice, safe choice.

Posted on August 13th 2010 in Death and Dying, Spirituality

Pick the perfect Funeral

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I know it’s a strange title and quite possibly a stranger blog post to write about but if the last time you thought about your funeral was ‘never ago’ and you think they still comprise mostly of traditional wooden coffins, white lilies and are black tie events then think again.

These days it is getting more and more common for people to arrange their own funeral, with many saying it can be one of the greatest gifts you can give your friends and family in a time when they are mourning and whilst you won’t be able to take a seat in the pews you’ll certainly leave this world exactly the way you want to.

Do you want Granite Headstones, wooden coffins and white lilies? Then of course you can choose those and traditional funerals are as popular as ever although there are also far more extravagant delights when it comes to coffins. From ‘green’ coffins made from banana leaf and water hyacinth to coffins designed and made to suit your interest like a miniature Orient Express or Rolls Royce.

People are choosing all manner of quirky things for their funeral which reflects their personality and this is just one of the benefits of arranging your own funeral. To the outside world beautifully simple Marble Headstones can be displayed in keeping with the graveyard but on the inside you can be buried in what seems to be anything you want along with particular items that you have held close to your heart.

It may seem a morbid thing to think about, but the only way you get to choose how you want your funeral to be is to arrange it yourself.

Posted on July 23rd 2010 in Death and Dying

How to arrange your funeral

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So, you have decided that it is about time you behave like a grown up and do grown up things. Making a will has been dealt with and whilst you know that you are still young, fit and able, there will be a point when you will die and you would like to pre-plan your funeral to alleviate extra stress from your friends and family in their time of mourning.

From arranging whether your Memorial Headstone will be granite or marble to where you will actually be buried, that’s if you don’t choose cremation, will help friends and family immensely once you have passed away.  But how do you arrange your own funeral? The first thing you should do is to sit down with friends and family. This doesn’t have to be a big deal but it is worth discussing with them the sensitive issues of what you would like and also to take into account what they may like. From where you would like to be buried (or cremated) to what you would like everyone to wear on the day (believe it or not, not everyone likes their mourners in black) it helps to discuss these matters as well as actually arranging them so it doesn’t come as a shock to them.

When you are ready, it is time to book a consultation with a funeral home that offers pre arranged funeral packages. They will often offer a free consultation where they will go through everything from how to buy memorial headstone to all the important information they’ll need to see like birth documents, wills etc.

Posted on July 21st 2010 in Death and Dying

Unusual Burials

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When we think of burials, it is no surprise that to most of us will think of the traditional ritual that has the body in a coffin, buried in a graveyard with a lovely personalised headstone, but these days there is a whole host of whacky and different ways to ‘dispose’ of your body once dead.

How about having part of your remains, in cremation form, being launched into space? These ‘burials’ allow a lipstick sized capsule filled with some of your ashes to be rocketed up into space. If you don’t fancy being launched into space then you could always be buried at the bottom of the sea. Your ashes would be sealed in a reef ball which is then dropped to the bottom of the sea, eventually becoming part of the reef and leaving a permanent living legacy. But then you could always go out with a bang, some companies modify fireworks by incorporating your ashes into them, friends and family get to watch a magnificent firework display whilst wishing you farewell for the last time.

If those options all sound a little too way out for you then you could always have your carbon made into a diamond for a loved one who will then be able to carry your memory around with them everyday on their finger. For the eco warriors out there, then perhaps being turned into organic matter may appeal. Your ashes will be transformed into an organic, odourless, hygienic powder which greatly reduces the impact on the environment.

For some, these new methods may appeal, but for the most I imagine the traditional forms of burial with a gravestone memorial are still the most favoured option.

Posted on June 7th 2010 in Death and Dying

The Supernatural and Film

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Since the late 1800s when the first depiction of supernatural events appeared on our screens, there has been a demand and fascination for films to elicit emotion ranging from fear, horror and terror from the viewers. Regardless of anyone’s true beliefs outside of film they know that when they get to watch a psychological thriller there’s almost certainly going to be a Professional Psychic, a ghost or a troubled spirit, and a Psychic Medium Reading that occurs.

Take ‘The Gift’, a supernatural thriller which sees the main character, a Fortune Teller; get involved with a murder mystery after seeing visions of a missing girl killed. Her involvement and input leads to the killer and untangles a web of lies and deceit. Throughout the film you see the torment and frustration she experiences trying to unravel her visions into order and clarity. She is also faced with mixed attitudes within her community, with some members requesting personal fortune readings whilst others shout abuse and call her a ‘witch’.

In the hit film the ‘Sixth Sense’ you see a tormented child, Cole, troubled that he sees dead people, with an equally tormented child psychologist trying to help him. The line ‘I see dead people’ which is spoken by Cole to the psychologist has become as famous as the film itself, and I am sure that anyone who has seen the film can still remember the chill they got when it transpires that the psychologist is actually dead himself. Brrr.

I have named but two in a long line of supernatural, psychological horror films that prove that to this day the paranormal is still as fascinating and popular as it has ever been.

Posted on March 18th 2010 in Death and Dying, Spirituality

Why you need to be thinking about pre planning your funeral

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Let’s face it; no one likes to think about dying, we are all going to live forever right? You know the answer to that one! Just like other things in life such as dreaded taxes, it is an unavoidable eventuality and although you may not want to consider the reality, maybe you should. It may seem a bit bleak choosing between burial and cremation, Gravestones and Headstones, Flowers or Donations, but wouldn’t it be easier for you to decide on the way you want your funeral than leave it to others?

There are several reasons why pre planning your funeral is a good idea. For starters, it will greatly reduce the stress on your family and friends. Your death will be a highly emotional time as it is, let alone when they then have to make hard decisions regarding what you may have wanted or not wanted. This leads me on to another reason you should pre plan your funeral. In doing so, you will make your wishes clearly known and these will be easily followed rather than guessed, giving you the funeral you wanted and everything that goes with that such as the type of Headstones you would like. Pre paying could also save you significant amount of money and it will guarantee that your family do not have to pay more for the funeral than you have allowed, thus relieving the financial burden on loved ones. The other element is that it will show your family that you cared enough not to leave them with extra worries both emotionally and financially when it comes to your death.

Before you ask whether it is too early to pre plan your funeral. The answer is No. It is never too early and in many ways, pre paying for your funeral, as mentioned above, can often end up being a very smart financial decision, eroding the power of inflation.

Posted on February 15th 2010 in Death and Dying

How to write a Eulogy

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When a loved one dies there is a lot to deal with, not only emotionally but logistically too. From sourcing the right Gravestones to picking the right flowers, a lot needs to be organized in often a very short period of time. Along with the logistics, thought and time is needed to prepare the funeral ceremony and many people choose to do a eulogy, which needs to be a well constructed, thoughtful speech of the loved one, mainly consisting of his/her life history and details of their friends, family, work, interests etc.

The most touching eulogies are written from the heart and will paint a good picture of the deceased loved one, who they were, what they did and what they enjoyed about life. It is a good idea to talk to family members and close friends and gather information and stories that they have held dear over the years to include. The most important things to include in the eulogy is their age, family and other close relations, education, work, career, hobbies and special interests, places the person lived and special accomplishments.

When you have gathered all the information and know the stories you are going to talk about then its time to start writing. Make sure you write it as you will speak it, don’t get too bogged down with formalities, remember this is a celebration of someone’s life and needs to come from the heart. When you have written it, go over it, refine it, and edit it until you are happy. The next step is to rehearse it, only then will you know whether you are truly happy with the flow and structure of it. Finalise the copy and then keep rehearsing until you are comfortable with how you deliver it. You don’t need to learn it from memory but having a strong idea of the structure and order will help you when you get up and speak. Remember that nerves and emotion will play a large part so you need to be confident in knowing your eulogy. The eulogy can often help people when choosing the Epitaph on Memorial Headstones too.

Posted on February 8th 2010 in Death and Dying