Pia is a fashion designer, funeral celebrant and death practitioner who creates meaningful rituals around the dressing and care of the deceased. Pia brings a wealth of experience in natural burial practice and has recently set up the Natural death Advocacy Network our Death Literacy Conference partners this year.
Please read on - Pia talks writes here about her work at Clandon Wood and about 'Come to my Funeral' Sunday October 12. Tickets are still available for all 3 days of the conference HERE.
Working with Clandon Wood Natural Burial Ground in the UK on over 100 funerals I was exposed to a number of amazing and vastly differing types of ceremonies, coffins, dressing styles, hand picked and arranged flowers, various grave gifts and grieving types. Being an insider meant that I could absorb all of these different options and then suggest them to new clients, who weren't sure of what they could do, through story telling and images. However nothing beats seeing things for yourself (preferably in a safe and supportive environment).
In order to show the options outside of the sting and immediacy of a real death, Clandon Wood would have regular Family days- everything out in the open, demonstrations at all times and public lectures from the community. The highlight of these days however was the Come To My Funeral event which saw the founder of Clandon Wood – Simon Ferrar host his own funeral. With a Frank Sinatra impersonator, barbershop quartet, his wicker coffin decorated by visitors then lifted onto a horse drawn cart which then was followed by everyone out to his grave and lowered by audience.
People could model their own funerals on his example, or even better invent their own by picking and choosing the moment that spoke to their individual personalities. It is with this notion in mind that we have decided to host another iteration of the Come To My Funeral event, only this time populated with some of the best Victorian practitioners have to offer.
Whilst we don't (yet) have a 31 acre wildflower meadow dedicated natural burial ground, the Augustine Centre will allow us to host an intimate and informative enactment of the dying, death and funeral proceedings.
We considered carefully whose funeral we would model the event on and ultimately were unanimous when I suggested our beloved conference MC, Molly Carlile AM. She would be perfect in that she been vocal about some pretty unique requirements – Twisties thrown into her grave for one- and fierce in her promotion of death education. While we wanted her -the next part was to ask her if she would die for us- even only if it was conceptually! Asking someone to rehearse their funeral long before the expected date carries a certain confrontation with ones own mortality. It needs to be handled with the upmost respect and many moments of ‘knocking on wood’ that it is not a plan that would need to be utilised in an untimely manner. However Molly, having worked with they dying for an extended period of time, was the first to remind me that it can happen at any time.
In what is sure to be an evocative and provocative event, Come To My Funeral will start with a visit from a palliative care worker who will discuss the sorts of treatments available and we will witness the transformation from diagnosis through to active dying and death bed rituals. A music thanatologist will play for Molly as her family keep vigil over her and upon her death the washing, dressing, laying out and the cooling of her body will be demonstrated before a visit from a celebrant will help to facilitate and empower family members to conduct their own authentic ceremony. From here Molly's body with be encoffined and her coffin decorated before she is laid to rest and her community gather to celebrate and Wake – Twisties guaranteed!
Come To My Funeral is being held as part of the 2nd Annual Death Literacy Conference: Doing Death Differently, 9-11th of October hosted by NDAN and the GroundSwell Project.
Venue: Alexander Room, Habitat Uniting Church, Hawthorn, Victoria.