Creative Dying - Resources and tools for designing our own death and dying is one of the designs in my portfolio for my Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design. I started this design in 2013 and it’s had several incremental changes over the years since. You can read more about Creative Dying and how permaculture can improve how we die, in a previous article I wrote here . The online resource I created then has now being archived and I’m currently in the process of designing the next steps of the project.
Triggered by several major life changing events, including serious illness, I have recently been updating my When I Die plan, which was part of the initial Creative Dying design. I’ve not explicitly named the permaculture principles used throughout my plan, but see how many you can identify as you read through. Could the same principles help to shape your own Creative Dying related design?
(The information shared in this blog relates to death, dying and bereavement in the UK)
The functions of my When I Die plan
The functions of my When I Die plan are
When I Die - Three Sections
My When I Die plan consists of three sections
The Before I die and As I die sections of my plan contain personal information that isn’t appropriate to share in this blog, but the information can be categorised under the following headings -
Through both my work as a palliative care nurse and as a Carer for various family members, I am aware of some of the difficulties in meeting the wants and expectations of a person approaching the end of their life. These include -
Not being able to meet the exact expectations of a person who is dying can be a significant burden for friends and family which can in turn impact on their bereavement. So including various options in an advanced care plan can be really useful for everyone concerned.
The third section of my When I Die plan, After I die, is typically the aspect of dying that most people planning for their death, focus on. It’s something which I am very happy to share the main elements here -
The final resting place for my body
My first choice for the placement of my body after my death, if available in the UK or other country where I die, is to be composted. Recompose are an amazing organisation founded by Katrina Spade, a permaculture designer and architect, in the US, who are pioneering the composting of human bodies. It’s a process that is already legal in several states and one if the aims of Recompose is to enable organisations in other countries to create similar systems.
If human body composting is not not possible, including because of the wellbeing of people close to me, then I would like to be buried in a woodland burial site nearest to the address where I am living when I die. Ideally I would like to be buried in this blanket that I have made from felted knitted squares of natural coloured wool, (wool which is produced and sold directly from small farms in the UK).
If burial in my blanket is not possible, including because of the wellbeing of people close to me, then I would like to be buried in the coffin I have already designed and purchased. This is in use as a book shelves and (the lid) as a notice board in my house.
If I die outside the UK then I would like my body to be treated and placed as local custom, with my ideal choice always being burial. I would not want my body to be transported back to the UK.
Celebration of life and saying goodbye
I have no fixed ideas or needs for those around me to celebrate my life and say goodbye after I die. Here is a list of some ideas I have that might assist people close to me involved in my after death care -
I have listed friends who are celebrants of various kinds and might be available to facilitate an event
Legal aspects of my When I Die plan
A really important part of the update of my When I Die plan has been getting some of the legal aspects of the project completed. I got both Lasting Power of Attorney, Health and Welfare and Property and Financial Affairs, documents arranged, meaning that a close friend of mine can act on my behalf if I am too unwell to make decisions for myself and my own needs known. At the same time, with the same local solicitor, I wrote my Will which means that when I die my wishes for any belongings and/or financial assets that I own will be carried out.
These documents took a bit longer to process than anticipated as they had just got into the legal system as the first lockdown for the COVID 19 pandemic commenced in the UK. However, they are complete now and the details in them will be honoured for the rest of my life. I can also change the content of any of these documents at any time, should I want too. A copy of my When I Die plan, while not legally binding, also sits with the Power Of Attorney documents and Will, both with my solicitor and in my paperwork at home. Two close friends have also got a copy of my When I Die document.
These books are some of my current favourite resources for making plans for dying.
The following list is a selection of my current favourite online resources -
Life. Death. Whatever
The Digital Legacy Association
The Good Grief Project
End Of Life Care - LGBTQ Route To Success - Macmillan Cancer Support
Anti-Racism: The Outer and Inner Work - End Of Life University Podcast
How To Have An Environmentally Responsible Death - Marie Curie
A Greener Way To Go, What’s The Most Eco Friendly Way To Dispose Of A Body - The Guardian
Eco Friendly Funerals - Green Eco Friend
The Natural Death Centre
Whether for your own death plan, or someone close to you, I hope its been useful to read about my own When I Die plan. I have other other new elements of Creative Dying planned over the next few months, sign up to my monthly newsletter to access them when available.
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