Today marks the start of Dying Matters awareness week, an annual event which takes place in May each year and opens up nationwide discussion of the very important but often taboo subject of death, dying and bereavement. If you haven’t heard of this growing initiative before then take a look at the hashtag #dyingmatters this week and you will discover 1000’s of related meetings, events, discussions and links to view. Of course sadly people are affected by death and dying every single day of the year and a wealth of help and support can be found via main dying matters website http://www.dyingmatters.org.
No one can take away the pain of grief, nor the fear & distress of dying, but sometimes those raw emotions can be eased by having the right support, as well as caring people to talk to and to share with.
Now, you may be asking what have death and travel blogging got in common? Well for me personally it has a lot in common as I have worked for the past 16 years as a Funeral Celebrant in the U.K.
Strange as it may seem to some I am as passionate about my funeral work as I am about travel and have spent a lot of time researching death rituals and traditions in other countries and cultures whilst we have been travelling.
Priceless handmade quilts which are displayed beside graves in Tonga
I am proud of the profession that I work in and proud of the many people within it who give so much of themselves on a daily basis to ensure that the dead, the dying and those who grieve are treated with the upmost dignity, kindness, care and respect.
I am beyond thankful that I found my true calling in life all those years ago and to know that I have made a difference in the lives of the 1000’s of bereaved families whom I have had the privilege of working with during some of their darkest times.
What is probably lesser known however is that each and every one of those families I have worked with over the years have brought something to my life too; they have honoured me in sharing their love, laughter, tears, memories, fears, frustrations, sometimes even anger.
One thing is for certain, working in the funeral profession has changed my life in many ways. I became more appreciative of my life and for every day spent with my children and loved ones. No longer did I have a 5 or a 10 yr plan, the moments were in the here and now.
My own brother died at the age of just 37. I am 48 now and highly aware that I have already had 11 extra years which he was never blessed with. I have seen so many others die too soon, either through illness, accident or sometimes even having made the agonising decision to take their own life. Just last year I lost two very dear friends to cancer, one of them just 15 days after being diagnosed.
I too have also faced some dark and challenging times over the last few years and it has been my love for my children which has kept me going, along with the love & support of incredible friends who pulled me out of a deep, dark hole which at times I wondered if I would ever climb out of. But I am here, I am alive and I am more grateful than ever for my life and for each and every day. My work and my own life experience have shown me that tomorrow is not promised to anyone.
I, like many have a few fears in life; spiders, snakes, heights…but my greatest fear is to be lying on my deathbed thinking “I wish I’d done………”
It was a difficult decision to step away from the work I love in order to travel the world, but once made I know it was the right decision for so many reasons, and within my heart I carry the memories of many people I have loved, lost and learnt from, for they will always be a part of my journey.
I have even carried a small amount of my brothers ashes with me in a cremation necklace so that in a small way he has shared every step of this amazing journey with us.
These last few months have been magical and unforgettable. I am beyond grateful to have seen and experienced all the incredible moments that we have and to tick many things off my personal bucket list. Who knows what time any of us have left on this earth but whilst I exist here I shall continue to LIVE & LOVE life to the fullest.
This journey has not only been a discovery about the world, but a voyage of self discovery too. One which has changed me forever. I know that I consciously want to spend each and every day becoming a better version of myself, I want to continue carrying out small acts of kindness which make a big difference to other people’s lives, and I want to take even greater steps to help preserve this beautiful planet for the next generations.
When I die people will grieve a while for me (I hope!!) and they will spend the 30 minutes or so of my funeral saying nice things about me and playing a few of my favourite songs. (I have all of my funeral wishes written down in stone!) But one day in the future when all of my nearest and dearest have also met their mortal end, my name will be null and void for millions and millions of years, just as it was before I was born. My death will no longer matter and nor will my life…..but it does matter now.
Our time here on earth is short and yet very precious, so whilst we focus on the importance of #dyingmatters this week, let us not forget that #livingmatters too.
And why not take a moment to ask yourself the question: “Before I die, I want to……..?” and let us all make one small step towards be kinder to ourselves, fulfilling our dreams as well as being kinder to others and to the planet.