Monday, November 10, 2014

I WAS SHORT-SHROUDED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wow....the time has gone by so quickly since my last post!  Between Death Cafes, National Home Funeral Alliance beeswax (I'm now on their Board of Directors!!), and our annual Day of the Dead party, it's almost Thanksgiving! Oh.  And did I happen to mention a MOVE in there??  Whew!
Pat, my artist friend, has been hard at work on my shroud.  It is an incredible creation.  She actually brought the shroud for me to "slip in to" at the party on November 1st, and much to her was TOO SHORT!!  You should have seen the onlookers gasp as they saw me have to twist and squirm, realizing that an alteration would be in order.  Then we all had a few good belly laughs, including Pat, and she simply had me exit the "body bag" and packed it away so she could make the necessary adjustments.  Please note the gusset and pleats, so clever, and exactly what the corpse ordered!  Also, one observes that the compass point, upon closer scrutiny, reveals an N and an S for North and South. But look again to find an H and an E.  Remember?  Here and Elsewhere!  (I will publish more detailed pictures from this shroud so that these unique features can be appreciated!)
Fast forward to today...Monday, November 10, and see the exquisite handiwork of this artist, and how she made a shroud so beautiful that one could truly say, "It's to DIE for!"

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Coffee and Cake to Die For!

I finally did it!  I have decided to host Mebane's FIRST "Death Cafe!"  Death Cafes are popping up all over the country, having started in Europe back in 2004. Finally, a taboo topic is gaining ground and people are finding it "normal" to sit around and discuss all aspects of death and dying.
I would LOVE to change how we as a society do death.  I will die a happier person knowing I contributed in some small way to this change.  Rather than thinking and feeling morbidly, "Oh God, one day I'm going to die," wouldn't it be grand to be able to say, with awe and wonder, "Oh God, one day I'm going to die!" Death Cafes are one way to start the conversation.  
When we are conscious of our own mortality, we live more fully.  
Learn more about this incredible movement at
I'll write more after our first get-together on July 23!


A forum for people to come together in a safe setting to discuss death, drink tea & coffee, and eat delicious cake!
6:00pm – 8:00pm
200 N 3rd Street, downtown Mebane

Please come join us for an informal sharing of thoughts, questions, and concerns about any aspect of grieving, dying and death.
Everyone welcome, but attendance is limited to 30 people!
RSVP to SARA at 919-623-0051 early!
~Event is FREE~

~Drinks and treats sold by Karma on Third~

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"It's Only Fitting..."

Today I actually spent time with Pat for my initial shroud fitting!  She has selected wonderful organic materials (muslin for the main body of the shroud and an almost sheer jersey for the face covering).  Pat will add a pocket, right on my heart, to hold lavender and rosemary (but mostly lavender because it's my favorite!!)  We're imagining that the pocket will be made from tulle with a ribbon of some sort.  She'll embellish the bodice with a map I have selected from the very book SHE told me about a couple of years ago..."The Atlas of Experience."  I love maps...always have!  This particular map is so unique and illustrates mortality in the most fascinating way. Pat captured a photo of me pored over the book, pondering the map.  Was I thinking about how many miles I have left on this earthly journey?  Or perhaps thinking about the deeper meaning of the points "Here" and "Elsewhere" labeled on the map? Hmmm...maybe just how blessed I am to be experiencing this whole freaking fabulous thing!!! 

Friday, April 11, 2014

"Last scene of all, that ends this strange eventful history..."

The title of this post is a quote from Shakespeare's "As You Like It" (Act II, Scene 7) where he defines the seven ages of man.  It also served as the title for one of my graduate school research papers at UNC in the year 1981.  In the paper, I was making a comparative analysis of Islamic and Christian cemeteries.  It earned me an "A" and the professor commented that it was "well researched, structured and synthesized."  She also said it was "a pleasure to read."  I have held on to the paper all these years because it was one of my favorite ones to research and write, and also because I included personal photographs of my paternal grandmother's grave following her funeral (photo below). There were also personal photographs taken in "God's Acre," the Moravian cemetery in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where many of my mother's relatives are buried. There's a bit of a difference between how Muslims and Moravians bury each other, trust me.  Muslims bury "green," although no one used this terminology at the time I wrote my paper.  (read entire paper at link below.)  
I was always interested in death education.  In fact, while I was an undergraduate at UNC, I took a course on "death and dying" taught by Ruel Tyson, renowned religious scholar.  The class was huge and very popular, much like a course you may have heard about lately at Kean University in Union, New Jersey taught by Dr. Norma Bowe.  The latter is currently the subject of a bestseller book called, "The Death Class: A True Story about Life" by Erika Hayasaki.  But I digress....During one class, Dr. Tyson went over to shut a window in the auditorium, and it hit the sill with a very loud BAM! Tyson gazed out at his students, paused for a few seconds, and then said, "My.  That sounded  FINAL, didn't it?"  The class erupted into hysterical laughter!
Fast forward to April 1988 and I am once again in graduate school at UNC...taking an education course because I'm thinking I'd like to teach.  I'm probably the oldest student in the class.  Can you guess what I decided to do for my final project??  Of course!  A little video on death education!  Segments included trips to local cemeteries with my two children to read epitaphs, conversations with an oncology nurse and a philosophy professor, and a tour of the crematorium.  This project garnered high marks as well.  Hmm...maybe I should stick with this death education thing after all, especially since one  purpose of this blog is to educate people about green burial.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Grave Expectations

The year is 1969, and I am a Senior at Hickory High School.  Our Honors English class is reading Dante's "Inferno" and I am apparently asking too many questions of the teacher because my friend, Tom,  continues sighing. Some exasperating sighs.  At one point, he just blurts out:  "SARA HILL!  YOU ARE OBSESSED WITH DEATH!"  This will become one of the defining moments of my life.  Thanks, Tom, for speaking your truth.  And for the inscription in my yearbook.  Forty-five years later, I am STILL obsessed with death.  After all, there is nothing which so intensifies life as the practice of remembering death.  Memento mori.  And here's to the hope that we all end up crossing the River Jordan and not the Styx!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Barbie and Mabel

Here is Pat, hard at work with the design of my shroud!  Can you see the MODELS she is using, to help explain to me how the shroud will work?!!  She found her Barbie at a thrift store and told me, "It was obvious from her purple lips, discolored legs, vacant stare, and general stiffness that she had departed this life, so I closed her eyes out of simple decency.  Mabel's demise was sudden and unexpected, but fortunate for me, as I needed a more zaftig model!!"

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The End!

Well, it might look odd to see "The End" at the beginning, but with this new blog, I will be telling the tale of how my funeral shroud is being created. I will also write about how I came to be interested in death and dying, a topic that my generation, "the baby boomers," is beginning to talk about more openly. 
I am blessed to know a wonderful artist in my hometown of Mebane, North Carolina, and she graciously consented to design and make my funeral shroud.
I am very interested in green burial, and am hoping that a green cemetery will be created at my church in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  This is sort of like the ULTIMATE in be returned to the earth without embalming, without a vault, and simply wrapped in an eco-friendly shroud like the one being designed by my artist friend, Pat Scheible.