The Guerrilla guide to scattering ashes

“It is the first time I have been able to talk about my mother’s death without ending up a gibbering wreck”

This parting comment brought home to me what the Death Café was all about. An opportunity for people to have a space in which they could discuss their thoughts and fears about death openly.

Suffolk held its first Death Café on the 24th October. With the addition of four Buddhists from Norfolk, twenty nine people gathered upstairs at the Woolpit Institute to eat Victoria sponge and Bakewell tart, and talk about life and death.

The conversation was wide ranging. The problem with scattering ashes on a windy day come up more than once. I particularly enjoyed discussing the illicit scattering of ashes ‘Great Escape’ style. One person commented she spent a lot of time at the Clinique counter in Debenhams and would like to have her ashes scattered there. I predict a great future for guerrilla ash scattering.

Ashes apart, feelings and attitudes to death were explored. Several present commented how it was easier to discuss such matters with strangers than with the people that they knew.

The question of who had control of funeral arrangements was a hot topic. Several people were concerned that they should be seen off in the manner that they wanted.
I was taken by the openness of those who having found it difficult to discuss such issues with their parents were far more open to discussing the question of death with their children. I was asked whether or not I’d discussed death with my own children and admitted that I had not. Arriving home we promptly had such a conversation.

My daughter India commented her School had experienced more than one death and holding of a Death Café for the school children would be a great idea. This is something I hope to explore further.

“Why”, asked one attendee “if a child is murdered by a paedophile should they have a church service which is televised and presided over by a Bishop when a child who dies of cancer does so in anonymity. Is one child’s life more important than others?”

When people die do we still see their echo? One person described a very vivid experience of being scolded by his deceased mother when he spilt sugar over the dinner table. Another commented how they thought they had seen their dead mother in the street on more than one occasion despite the fact that their mother was not only dead but had died and lived in another country.

All present were invited to take part in the Queen Victoria and Ena Sharples test. Ena was very upfront in her relation to her own mother’s death whereas Queen Victoriaspent some 40 years in seclusion and mourning. The general view was that death was something to be upfront about and not hidden away in a dark corner.

Our first Death Café had opened a door that many of those present wanted to go through again. We will be holding further Death Café’s in East Anglia.