Tuesday, March 17, 2015

REMAINS TO BE SEEN...or, Pat's Ponderings Get Posted!

It was a perfectly ordinary Tuesday in late autumn, when I heard the doorbell ring.  On the porch stood a wild-eyed woman, a casual acquaintance, who was shouting something.   Over the din of two barking dogs, I could just make out, “I-want-you-to-make-me-a-burial-shroud!”  Should I slam the door and call 911, sic the dogs on her, or grab a bottle of Chardonnay and invite her in?  I went with the wine option, and so began a great adventure with Sara Williams, Certified Home Funeral Guide and Green Burial advocate.  A couple of glasses later, I was persuaded, converted, intrigued, and totally on board.  Here’s how it went:
A shroud, I thought, innocently, should be simpler to create than a garment.  There would be no need for pesky sleeves, collars, and the like.  However, there were some.... unique design requirements.  Besides being simple and dignified, it must:
-         ~ Cover a variety of body types
-         ~ Be easily and neatly secured in place
-         ~ Be easily carried by the pallbearers
-         ~ Be biodegradable, and of organic fabric
I was used to creating all sorts of garments using my dressmaker’s mannequin, but realized that I now needed something different – a full body model.  At the local Goodwill, I was able to recruit two:  Mabel and Deceased Barbie (see earlier posts).  Finding a supplier of organic cotton fabric willing to sell me less than 100 yards came next.
An internet search turned up three basic types of shroud: bed sheet, sack, and burrito.   All left a lot to be desired, design-wise.  My two models were infinitely patient while I worked out and refined the details of an ideal shroud.   The final design is expandable, without being bulky at the head and feet, and the ties and carrying handles are elegantly integrated. If needed, a back board may be easily added.  Sara was thrilled!  Mabel and Deceased Barbie had no comment.
The body drape provides an ideal place for custom decoration.  Sara, who sees life as a journey, requested a personalized map and a pocket for her fresh lavender and rosemary.  The sheer silk veil was my idea, in part because I can’t sleep unless my face is covered.  More importantly, it allows the vigilers (vigilantes?) to have their loved one be emphatically present and unveiled, or veiled and at a slight symbolic remove.

I am proud to be part of the emerging movement to simplify and personalize burial.  The name of my business?   REMAINS TO BE SEEN!  (Sara snorted and choked on her Chardonnay.)

Pat's business card

Friday, March 6, 2015

Still Talking About Death...Hold the Sugar!

I am preparing to host our EIGHTH Death Café on March 25!  We have met monthly since our first Death Café in July, 2014.  The group continues to grow and is a diverse bunch of folks, especially on the age spectrum.  We have 20-somethings and 80-somethings!  We are composed of college students, a clinical psychologist, a family practice physician, a baker, a Veteran, an artist, an occupational therapist, hospice volunteers, cancer survivors, a mortician-in-training, a diesel mechanic!  We all love to talk about death and there is never a lull in our conversations.   
Rebecca, our baker, whipped up some fine skeleton cakes one evening for our enjoyment (see picture).  People just get in to this death stuff!
We read poetry.  We discuss articles on death and dying.  And once I dared to show the movie “A Will for the Woods” because people were so interested in green burial.  I soon learned from Jon Underwood that was verboten where Death Cafes are concerned.  You cannot have an agenda or sell a product or even have a theme.  Or show movies.  So we decided that we would heretofore refer to that particular meeting as a “Death Cafeteria!” 
I read that at the Atlanta Death Café, they always end their meeting by singing “Happy Trails” (the song made famous by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans).  So I printed off several copies and our group does the same at the conclusion of our meetings.  You would be surprised how many people love to sing (even those who can’t carry a tune!!?).  
I believe that the reason Death Cafes, like this one I facilitate each month in Mebane, are growing so quickly around the world is because a whole lot of people are ready to talk about death, dying and end of life issues.  When we let go of our fear of death and bring it into our ordinary conversation---without the sugar coating---we can live with greater passion and joy.  

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Mount Rushmore Didn't Start on a Mountain!

Even though I can't identify the source for this quote, it makes sense. Every great artist, specifically SCULPTORS, use miniatures, models, maquettes to plan out their masterpieces!  That's a LOT of "M" words!!!!!!!!!!  Marvelous!
Pat is no exception.  When she began to think about how to create a shroud for me, she used her  "Deceased Barbie" to get things going.  In arriving at the design, she had many attendant engineering considerations.  
The things that make the design so special are the boxed and pleated head and foot sections that cocoon the body, simply and securely, and the drape with veil, which can be personalized, and which lets you have that feeling of comforting and protecting and tucking them in for the night (especially if you order it in velvet!).  Pat's stenciling talents are another gift...this expert can do anything to make your shroud truly and remarkably your own special work of art.
Follow Deceased Barbie, Designer Pat, and Not Yet Deceased Sara in their fascinating journey from the designing block to the uncorking of "dead reds" to celebrate!
Boxed ends for good fit and stability.

Closed outer wrap showing chest detail.

                    Back view showing board pocket, ties, and carrying loops.
             Time to enjoy "Skeleton" Malbec and "Hob Nob" Wicked Blend!