Crazy Coffins are to exhibit a selection of their creations in Bournemouth Library from Monday 8 August 2011 in the run up to the Six Feet Under convention. The Nottinghamshire-based company is famous for its bespoke coffins that reflect the quirky wishes of their customers. You can find out more at http://www.crazycoffins.co.uk.
As part of my research for the Six Feet Under convention, I went along to the London Funeral Exhibition at the Epping Forest Woodland Burial Park, which spread over Saturday and Sunday. The highlights included a ‘state of the funeral industry’ address from the author of the Good Funeral Guide, Charles Cowling.
He said of crematoria funeral services, “At 20 minutes they’re far too short. We’re too busy burning the dead and not taking care of the living.” He observed that the less civilised the country, the more civilised the funeral ritual, with some lasting several days. He also lamented the skewed costs. The expertise of the funeral celebrant often comes cheaper than the flowers.
A horse and cart did a tour of the serene-green woodland and Paul Sinclair the charismatic owner of Motorcycle Funerals showed off his beautifully-buffed hearse. There were displays of the new-style coffins and talks about how the industry is evolving. I had a good chat with the London Casket Company which sells the grand-style caskets beloved by the Fishers. I saw a moving film called First Darkness by Clare O’Hagan and Denise Wylie.
A lady called Priscilla Etienne exhibited a quirky new business. She does funeral photography, called ‘Funeography‘ – it seems eminently sensible to have a photographic record of funerals like every other social get-together.
It was a beautiful setting and a delightful weekend. For more information about Woodland Burial Parks, click here.
We’re working with Rosie Inman-Cook from the Natural Death Centre to create a similar free exhibition in the Bournemouth Triangle during the Six Feet Under convention. If you’d like to be involved please get in touch.
The Queen’s Hotel in Bournemouth is offering a special delegate rate for the Six Feet Under convention. This privately-owned AA 3 Star Bournemouth hotel boasts 109 en-suite rooms and deluxe suites. It is ideally situated in the heart of Bournemouth’s East Cliff, only a short walk from the busy town centre where you can find the Bournemouth International Centre (BIC), the Pavilion Theatre, and family-friendly pubs and restaurants that cater for all tastes. We are a few minutes walk away from Bournemouth’s Blue Flag award winning, golden, sandy beaches and Bournemouth Pier.
Attendees or exhibitors at the convention can get a rate for Friday 12 August and Saturday 13 August of £99.00 per room per night including bed and breakfast.
The code to quote when calling or emailing the hotel to book will be – BJENNER. Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We have permission from Bournemouth Council to host a Six Feet Under exhibition in Bournemouth Triangle on the Saturday and Sunday of the convention. The Triangle is the home to the town’s gay community.
To make the event compact we have also decided to move the lectures to Bournemouth Library.
We have the Triangle space which we intend to fill with exhibitors of woolly coffins, willow coffins, wicker coffins and the huge caskets that were on display in the Fisher’s front room. We also want to encourage cardboard coffin decorating and posing for photos in a comfy box of your choice.
Since this is the first convention, we’re open to suggestions. If you can suggest any funeral-related activities which you think would appeal, please get in touch. We’d like to engage a New Orleans funeral jazz band to perform through the town. We’re looking for a sponsor.
I’m being a accused of having an unhealthy preoccupation with death doing all this SFU stuff. Then I listened to Steve Jobs’s famous commencement speech to students at Stanford University. Here is his third story.
My third story is about death.
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.
I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.
This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.
Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.
Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.