A mother's thoughts on Sun Rising Natural Burial Ground
Something has already drawn you to the web-site of this most wonderful burial ground. I hope that my following thoughts, written in honour of both this site and its management, may encourage you to further your connection with it.
When a person that we love dies, the manner in which we demonstrate the uniqueness of them and our love for them, via their funeral and the location of their final resting ground, becomes of great importance to us. We want to get it right – for them and for us.
In the early hours of the morning, and just hours after I learned of the unexpected death of Joss, my eldest son, I found myself quite overwhelmed by my yearning to find the perfect location for his final resting place, supported by the perfect people. It was all I could focus on. Myself, my husband, Joss' three siblings and dearest friends, wanted a place and people where we would be allowed, supported and enabled to honour him with our love and respect in a way that was precious and personal to us, and most especially, to him.
I found myself thinking of Sun Rising Natural Burial Ground, a place already selected and specified by my husband, with quite a while to go, we thought, before anyone need put any serious thought to it. We soon found ourselves looking at its' web-site, with awe, wonder and delight. Not only a site of great natural beauty, it seemed, but one also where we'd be able to plan, participate in and provide, a funeral as unique as our love for Joss. We decided to pay it a visit.
Once there, the sense of love, peace and regeneration enfolded us. Its 360 degree beauty evoked emotional and visual memories of Cumbria, which as a family we loved. This was Joss' and our place. A place as special as him. A perfect location, one that fed and nurtured our senses and emotions. A site that is itself fed and nurtured by Emma Restall Orr, who reads and relates to families' needs, as gently and effectively as she does the Sun Rising site.
As a family, our previous experience of death and the funeral process was that of much-loved parents/grandparents. We followed what we assumed to be the 'normal' procedure at such times. We used the services of a reputable local Funeral Directors. They were good: professional, friendly and proficient. There was, however, a sense that the whole process and people, were 'dealt' with. We felt as if we were part of a procedure, to be conducted within a certain format, and definitely within a certain, pre-determined time-scale. We felt we had to get it right in relation to the accepted norm, rather than in the unique context of our family. We struggled and failed to find a celebrant appropriate to our need. And that mattered - a lot. The way in which we celebrated and 'let go' of our respective loves, was so important. Being ushered through the process by kindly, yet somehow professionally 'removed' Funeral Directors, did little in allowing the uniqueness of our love, personalities and memories to be expressed. Out of my most meaningful funerals, my dad's, my mum's and my eldest son's, my dad's felt 'good'; my mum's 'good enough' and by far the most poignant - my son's - totally 'perfect'.
It took the death of Joss for us to get it right. We determined that the place, the time, the people and our ability to participate, were of utmost importance. Not for the day of the funeral alone; but for all the days that followed. We felt that Joss' funeral was too precious a day for it to be taken over by clinical proficiency and time-management. We felt prepared to face the fear of the unknown, by what we thought could be a D.I.Y. Funeral.
I phoned Emma to arrange a meeting at the burial ground. The phone call itself was one of received wisdom, information and kindness. And upon meeting her, rather than our past experience of “well, this is how it's done …..”, we were met by someone who connected and identified with us and explained the options available, in order to help us make choices appropriate for us. The only remit of need to be met was ours; and met it was, beyond expectation.
With regard to the DIY aspect, any fears soon disappeared! We only did ourselves, exactly that which we wished to. Emma covered all the aspects that one perceives to be the general remit of a Funeral Director; including that of contacting the ethical Funeral Directors that Sun Rising uses, to care for your loved one's body.
At Sun Rising:
- You are supported in achieving the funeral that is right for you and your loved one.
- You have autonomy within the security of Emma's support.
- 'Everything is possible', was the message we got. And if you feel you might like to do something, like carry and lower the coffin, you will be encouraged and empowered to do so. Emma ensures that you are enabled to fulfil anything that might, even tentatively, be on your 'wish' list. She knows you only have one opportunity to get this right.
- Emma perceptively acknowledges the variety of personalities that can be present within a family group, enabling her to advise on a celebrant, should you wish one, that will best suit your family. The celebrant she guided us to was a gift!
- You are given as much time as you need. And instead of feeling ushered and processed, you are loving participants within a beautiful process of your choosing.
- On the day of the funeral, you are greeted at Sun Rising by Emma; then your ceremony, unique to you and your loved one, begins. You only know Emma and her colleague are there, as and when you need them to be; e.g. for gentle, facilitative instructions for carrying/lowering the coffin.
- You feel as only Sun Rising can make you; as if you have been lovingly and expertly guided to make this a day filled with natural and emotional beauty, and love …
- As you leave, Emma is there at the gate. This petite woman, with enormous emotional and cerebral intellect, still there for you, having, for this immensely significant day, expertly combined her professional, subtle efficiency with that of her sensitive, sincere empathy, to have made it one that will shine out in your heart's memory.
A day that epitomises the humans capacity to demonstrate love, honour and respect, at every level. Joss' funeral was a beautiful, personal ceremony of celebration, of both him and the immense love that we shared. We had experienced and participated in our ideal. We felt understood and cared for. It impressed so many people, with the majority of those there saying that they didn't know a funeral could be as wonderful as that (nor did we)! The young ones said that this is where they eventually want to be; with many 'mature' ones saying that they're now re-thinking their place of rest (in favour of Sun Rising, of course!).
This beautiful nature reserve is a place where love and regeneration are grown. We were as nurtured by Emma as was Joss by this wondrous and unique burial ground . A site of love and beauty, also supported and responded to by Emma, to itself be nurtured by and with the flow and cycles of nature. With the roundhouse as its heart, and the ever-changing beautiful sky as its mantle, you know that this is the most safe, most loved and most loving resting place for your loved one. And still and always, there is Emma, telling you that she is there for you ...
Emma and 'Sun Rising', Thank you,
With love and gratitude, Sue Clempson