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OA54 Paying it forward – how participation, care and connexion with our loved ones at death leads to future community participation
  1. Claire Turnham
  1. Only With Love & Home Funeral Guide, UK


In this talk I draw from my own personal and professional experiences of families gently caring for loved ones after death and wish to show that when we are encouraged to remain actively involved in death care and connected to our dead that we are empowered to help ourselves and others through the process.

I plan to use specific, practical examples from a range of home and family-led funerals which show that when we embrace death by lovingly participating in this way we are enabled to confidently support, guide and give back to our communities.

This will include the recent experience of woman who felt so enabled after washing, dressing and caring for the body of her husband that she hired a car and drove his coffin to the natural burial ground the next day. At the graveside she led the eulogy and powerfully sang to his coffin as it was lowered into the earth by family bearers.

Three weeks later the same woman felt so inspired that she willingly hired another car and drove the coffin of a stranger to the church and crematorium as a simple and kind act of paying it forward in the spirit of community. In turn the second widow offered a donation to a charity of the first widow’s choice.

In doing so both families developed and shared a close bond which they hope will nourish and sustain them always. In reclaiming this lost art of caring for our own and actively participating in this way I suggest we can help each other to find purpose, meaning and transform our experience as a human community which connects us all in both life and death.

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