Austin's Blog


The art of ‘death cleaning’

January 17th, 2018    Author:

When a loved one dies, one of the difficult tasks you may have to take on is clearing out their home. It can feel sad going through their possessions and it may seem like you’re having to say goodbye all over again.

In Sweden, there’s a tradition called ‘doestaedning’ – death cleaning – that may help make the process easier. It involves getting rid of unwanted possessions while you’re still alive – so the job isn’t left for others to do when you’re gone.

It may sound morbid, but people who death clean find it an empowering experience. Margareta Magnusson, author of ‘The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter’, started her own death cleaning after her parents and husband died and she was left to go through their belongings. She found getting rid of her own unwanted things uplifting and rewarding.

Death cleaning doesn’t need to be rushed. Margareta suggests going through one room at a time and listing each item that you want to keep or part with. It’s also best to start with items that are easy to let go of – clothes you rarely wear, those extra dinner plates you never use, unwanted presents.

You might want to give certain possessions to friends or family members – perhaps a piece of china or jewellery that they’ve admired. As for sentimental items such as photographs and letters, these should be kept with you and cherished. Margareta keeps all hers in a ‘throwaway’ box – these are things that family members don’t need to sort through when she’s gone and can be simply thrown away.

Death cleaning might not be for everybody, but if you’re struggling to clear out your loved one’s possessions it might be something to think about for yourself.

 * For help and support planning a funeral or cremation, please contact us on 01438 316623.

Funerals in Ancient Rome

November 6th, 2017    Author:

From professional mourners to elaborate processions, we look at how wealthy Romans said goodbye to their deceased…

Back in the days of Ancient Rome, it was believed that a person’s soul left their body through the mouth – so the nearest relation would be at their loved one’s deathbed ready to inhale their last breath. Afterwards, the deceased would be lovingly bathed, perfumed and dressed in fine robes then coins would be placed over their eyes or under their tongue.

For the funeral procession, wealthy Romans would have an elaborate affair organised by professional undertakers called libitinarii. At the head of the procession there were dancers, musicians and actors wearing masks signifying the deceased’s ancestors. Also taking part were paid female mourners who wailed loudly while pulling their hair and scratching their faces. Following behind the main procession, friends and relatives transported the deceased in an open cloth-covered bier, or bed-like tray.

The deceased would either be buried or cremated and their ashes placed in an urn within a columbarium, or dovecote. This was an important part of the funeral ritual, as the Romans believed that until a body was interred it couldn’t cross the River Styx – the mythical river that took the deceased from Earth to the Underworld. Nine days later, there would be a feast, during which a libation was poured over the grave or ashes.

After a person’s death, families regularly commemorated their loved ones by gathering around their tomb and making offerings to the spirits. The Roman state also set aside special commemoration days during the year so that people could honour their ancestors.

While we may not follow the same traditions as the Ancient Romans, like them we do all we can to give our loved ones a memorable a send-off and to keep their memory alive in our hearts.

* For help and support planning a funeral or cremation, please contact us on 01438 316623

Saying Goodbye with Cremation Ashes

May 30th, 2017    Author:

With cremation a popular choice, we look at some unique and special ways to celebrate with your loved one’s ashes

Going out with a bang

Some people are giving their loved ones a spectacular exit with an organized fireworks display. Cremation ashes – cremains – are added to fireworks, which are then fired off into the sky in a beautiful display. One UK company, Heavens Above Fireworks, can arrange a dramatic display synchronized with music or something a bit quieter using reduced-noise fireworks. They also provide self-fired rockets if you want to have your own fireworks ceremony at home.

Memorial jewellery

If you want to keep your loved one close to you after they’ve passed, you can have their ashes made into memorial jewellery. Cremains can be added to colourful glass beads as a charm bracelet, included in a locket or set into silver for pendants and necklaces.

Up, up and away

When space fan Chester Mojay-Sinclare lost his grandmother he came up with a special way of seeing her off. He placed her ashes in a biodegradable urn and sent them up into the air attached to an environmentally-friendly meteorological balloon. Once it reached 100,000ft, a special mechanism opened the urn, releasing his beloved gran’s ashes into the stratosphere. Chester has since set up Stardust Ashes, which offers this service nationwide.

Diamonds are forever

An expensive but unique way to hold on to a deceased ashes is to have them made into a diamond. Created in a laboratory, a hi-tech process extracts the carbon from the ashes and compresses it at a high temperature, after which the molten material reforms into its natural state. It’s then cut and polished into a genuine diamond.

Space odyssey

If your loved one always had a hankering to travel into space, you can make their dream come true even after death. Cremains are put into a capsule and launched into space, where they float in the zero gravity environment before returning to Earth. The capsule is then mounted in a plaque with a launch photo and flight message, leaving the family with a novel keepsake. Other space options include launching the cremains into Earth orbit, where they could remain for up to 240 years before vaporizing like a blazing shooting star, or sending them to the Moon!

A memorable skydive

If sending your loved one’s ashes into orbit seems like a galaxy too far, you could have them scattered into the atmosphere as part of a skydive instead. British company Your Wings offers filmed skydives where they’ll take the ashes and release them into the air, letting the wind carry them far and away.  If you’re feeling brave, the company also arranges tandem skydives so you can be there to witness the amazing moment the ashes are released.

* We’re here to help. If you’d like to talk to us about a cremation or burial, please contact us on 01438 316623.

Let’s talk about the ‘D’ word

April 26th, 2017    Author:

Death and dying are not something most people naturally want to talk about. In fact, one research study found that people would rather discuss money or politics with family and friends. So it’s often not until a loved one dies that our thoughts turn to their wishes concerning their funeral.

Unfortunately, according to the study, only 30% of people had let someone know their funeral wishes. It also found that because of people’s reticence to talk about death, only 25% of respondents had asked a family member about their end of life wishes and just 7% had written down their wishes about the care they’d like if they were unable to make decisions.

With Dying Matters Week  taking place next month, it’s hoped that people will be encouraged to think about and discuss death and dying. During the week there will be nationwide events on this important subject, including coffee mornings, healing woodland walks, spiritual ceremonies, talks and film screenings.

It may be a good time to open up the conversation with loved ones and ask them questions such as how they would like to be looked after in later life, whether they’ve made a will and what kind of funeral they’d like. Perhaps they have a particular song they’d like or they have a favourite colour they’d like incorporated into the ceremony.

Talking about death doesn’t have to be morbid or depressing. Chatting about it is a great opportunity to think about what you’d like and to let friends and family know your wishes. When the time comes, it will help them to know that they are doing the right thing and that everything is as you wanted it.

* For help and support planning a funeral, please contact us on 01438 815555.