Tag Archives: death

The Meaning of Life: Change and Decay

I know I keep talking about the meaning of life on this blog. The preciousness of all of our times here on earth, including my own as I enter my autumnal days.

Today has been more of this, particularly reflective for me as I’ve spent much of it on Sarah’s autumnal allotment, itself changing and gently decaying now, long past the summer’s end as the year’s light declines.

In through the Secret Gate.

The light this afternoon being that particularly sharp, low in the sky light, that comes on sunny days just before we turn the clocks back.

Dogwood in the autumn light.

Bonfires of the summer’s growth all around us.

All the colours sharp like they’ve been turned up to maximum on some celestial control. Continue reading

My Day in Funeral Land

Sarah, in case you didn’t know, has been working as an Independent Funeral Celebrant for four years now. Here she takes us through one of her days. A fascinating and gently observant account of helping three families through what will happen to us all one day.

“Here’s my day.

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8.30am. Breakfast in my car in Anfield Cemetery. Seems strange? Well not for me as I often spend parts of my day in places that are close to crematoria, because I work in the funeral industry, as a funeral celebrant. I create and deliver individual funeral services for families and friends. It is a huge privilege. Today I have three services in three different crematoria.

6 April_05This is my trusty A to Z which is falling apart but is my navigation tool of choice. My regular crematoria are marked L (Landican on the Wirral), S (Springwood, south Liverpool), A (Anfield, north Liverpool), T (Thornton), S (Southport) and H (St Helens).

Driving along Queens Drive this morning I notice that the blossom on the weeping trees is beginning and remember how much I want to tell my friend Rachel every year when I see spring start to arrive. She died in February 2012, I miss her. These strange small trees are really unremarkable for the rest of the year, but for a brief period are in blossom, and are lovely. Do look out for them if you are in Liverpool.

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Image from Google – Queens Drive, April 2015, near Larkhill Place.

I am then up at Anfield Cemetery in good time for my service and take some time here. I love it here. Continue reading

Wandering About: Down to the River

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A day of reflections.

Having walked a fair bit of North Liverpool then South Liverpool in the last two days it didn’t take a genius or even me to work out today’s ‘Walking About’ route, the middle. Roughly from here in Wavertree, through L7 and L1 to the River. Let’s go.

Out across the Mystery.

Out across the Mystery.

Reflecting as I start out on a third walk in three days that there are some times when I need a lot of time on my own. Not in a melancholy way, but I don’t want to be inside and I have an elemental need to walk, alone.

The inbound London train crosses a 79D bus on Picton Road.

The inbound London train crosses a 79D bus on Picton Road.

Continue reading

A year to live? 10 things I’ve learned

The culmination of a whole year of ‘Year to live’ posts and also part of a podcast with Liam Black and Lucy Adams.

A year ago now, October 2013, I began living my life with the constant and conscious thought that this year could be my last. Questioning everything, asking ‘Would I do this work, go to this event, spend time with this person if I thought I had a year to live?’ Reasoning that one day this will be true for all of us, but that of course we mostly never know. So why not live with this consciousness for a year and see what it does?dsc05973

I decided to write about it too, and you can go back and look at the posts and discussions that followed if you want. For me though, at the end of this theoretical final year it’s time now to reflect on the main things I’ve done and learned from doing it. I don’t say what follows will turn out to be all I’ve learned, but these are the first ten things that come to mind.

1. You truly never know the day.

I began this ‘Year to live’ in good health and as a theoretical exercise. Out running several times a week and fully confident in my own body. Then within weeks I was thrown into hospital land, a place from which I am yet to emerge. Continue reading

2012: Friday walks, The life force

Sarah’s hands, calm and determined, St Bartholemew’s church in Thurstaston

Early March, Ronnie takes us round this week’s joint walk

Well, this was our first walk together for four weeks. Last week Sarah had a cold, the week before she was jet lagged, and the week before that she was in New Jersey, because her best friend Rachel had just died from metastatic breast cancer.

So we carefully picked our ‘home’ walk for this week. The walk we consider to be ‘the one.’ From which all of our other regular walks flow. The walk we automatically go on in times of need. We went to the Shining Shore.

The last time we went to the Shining Shore was only four weeks ago. Rachel was in hospital but, as ever, we were confident she was coming out. And so, on the walk, we made a film just for her called ‘Miss you.’ To make her laugh. It contained dancing, singing, jokes and, well, it felt like Rach was on the walk with us, looking at us through our cameras.

Rachel never got to see the film, of course. And so, setting out on the same walk four weeks later, we are very conscious that one of us has gone. And also very conscious, as we walk, that in four sad and grief stricken weeks for us, the life force in nature has been doing what it always does, renewing life.

Leucojum, ‘Spring Snowflake’ – like big snowdrops

Continue reading

2012: Friday walks, Lost Liverpool

Lost Liverpool, walking through the past

Resuming the walks reports, after last week’s walk was lost to Sarah’s jet lag. And reflecting on time’s effects on caring, friendship and mortality.

This week’s walk is now more normally done as a run. Was introduced to Sarah as a run, in fact, by her former running mates, the ones who disappeared soon after Sarah’s diagnosis. But today I’m doing it as a walk. Because running with a camera is hard. And because I want time to think.

The route was originally known as ‘Camp Hill’ – but we call it ‘Lost Liverpool.’ It’s a mostly off-road route that shows you a version of Liverpool very few people get to see. Very, very rich, eighteenth century Liverpool. We will walk along ancient lanes where elegant horse-drawn carriages once drove. And I will show you some of the houses of the slave traders. Continue reading

2012: Friday Walks, Walking with Rachel

For Rachel Cheetham

In a time of sorrow there is comfort in ritual, in doing the familiar. 

Our friend from New Jersey, Rachel, has often seemed to be out on our walks with us. As we’ve filmed them or photographed them to show to her during times when, as she’s said ‘My world is so much smaller now.  I spend so much of my time dealing with all things cancer, so I need to hear about the kinds of experiences that don’t involve doctors, hospitals, tests, treatment or otherwise.’ So we have shown her Liverpool and the Wirral and further afield, as we have regularly gone out walking and camping over the last year. Last week, in fact, as well as the photographs you saw in my walk report, we made a film for Rachel, to cheer her up when, as we confidently expected, she emerged from yet another hospital experience. Well, obviously, she never got to see that one, as she died in hospital this last Monday from metastatic breast cancer.

Leaving the house

So today, with Sarah being over in New Jersey, I decided to continue with our tradition of ‘seeming’ to have Rach with us, by taking her on a walk I don’t think we’d ever shown her.

Continue reading