Maisy the dog’s cancer diagnosis turns out to be four toy teddies she’d consumed, after stealing them from the Chihuahuas she shares a home with. It's a funny story with a happy ending after a life-threatening, naughty start. Also, death is something that happens to other people’s dogs. And to other people.
Earlier today, I went to a three-hour talk: ‘Planning a Funeral (everything you wanted to know about a funeral but were afraid to ask)’ by an independent funeral director from Compassionate Funerals. I like to do fun things on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
The talk started with a demonstration of how a dead body is wrapped in preparation for death, with the help of a (still alive) assistant, a bamboo couch and some white sheets. As a caring organisation, Compassionate Funerals prefer not to embalm bodies because it’s invasive. Embalming requires making an incision in the neck, armpit or groin to extract a vein through which the blood which remains in the body after the heart has stopped is drained out and replaced with preservative formaldehyde.
The speaker explained how the embalming process continues and lots more besides on the specifics of what can happen when you die, how and when coroners get involved, death rates in the UK (they’re rising for the post-war generation; the numbers were much lower for those prematurely taken in WW2), the UK funeral landscape, and so much more. I cannot choose which other bits to highlight as it was all so incredibly informative and fascinating.
I’m surprised to say I now feel quite excited about planning my own funeral (we’ll be going through this at the next meeting) now that I’ve heard some examples of how others have made plans well ahead of time.
At this meeting, I also discovered the existence of Death Cafés. In their own words, it’s a place where ‘people drink tea, eat cake and discuss death. Our aim is to increase awareness of death and to help people make the most of their (finite) lives. A Death Café is a group directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives or themes. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counselling session’.
Now that the two main astrological significators for death are retrograde, Saturn (since Wednesday and until 6th September 2018) and Pluto (currently stationed to turn retrograde tomorrow until 1st October 2018), a Death Café would be a good place to have a cup of tea at some point in the coming months. It’s a time to reflect on being mortal.
As one lady in the group put it ‘if only we could choose when and how we go!’. While that's tricky, we can organise practically and financially for what happens when our time is up. Both Saturn and Pluto are in Capricorn, a sign that appreciates a long-term plan with a delineated path to the desired goal. For starters, make sure you have a will. If you already have one in place, make sure it includes a detailed funeral plan and circulate the plan to the people you trust most.
This is not just about preparing for the end. What about right now? When you arrive at death’s door, everything is stripped away and only the raw truth remains. The funeral director and his colleagues regularly witness this with the deceased and the loved ones they care for.
How real (Capricorn) can you get about who you are, and how you live now - with help from Saturn and Pluto’s wise, firm hands - instead of waiting until the end? The clock is ticking.
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