A Touch of Death and an Easing into Grief

“Don’t brush my hair when I die.

Don’t bathe me.

Wrap me in my favourite blanket and put me straight into the dirt.

Throw in flower petals and dog hair and pour wine all over me.

Let me die free and messy.Subversive and relentless.

A wild seed.”Columbus Deathcare Community

My daughters and I have many conversations on dying and death. They are open-minded, honest and open-hearted conversations. Not in a morbid way but deep and meaningful, with curiosity and fascination, often with humour and always with love.

My eldest daughter and I recently got onto the topic of the care I would like to receive AFTER my death. I can’t even remember how we ended up talking about this but we let the conversation flow. I’d be quite happy to be placed straight into the soil as I died – unwashed and unkempt. And yet, what I have asked for is that my daughters gently, mindfully and with tender care wash my hands and face. Not that I need to be clean for burial or whatever follows next – I’ve never died before so I like to keep an open mind. But to use it as a ritual to support them in their grief, to aid acceptance of my death and a loving ceremony of saying things left unsaid, of goodbyes.

That caring, intimate touch can be such an important aspect of saying goodbye or even thank you.

A final loving gift for us all.

The flower petals and dog hair would be a nice touch too.

Many cultures and faiths have a ritual of washing the entire body and dressing after death. And not so long ago it was commonplace here for family members to tend to the body of a loved one after death. I wonder at what point in our recent history we decided to hand it over to undertakers? In relinquishing the care of the dead we have lost touch (pun intended) with that intimate, tender care that can be so healing in times of grief.

Let’s talk about this more.

To break the stigma and in doing so alleviate or break the pattern of fear surrounding death.

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