From joyous celebrations in Spain, marching jazz bands in New Orleans and novelty sports-car coffins in Ghana, to bodies burned by the riverside then tipped into the water in India, no matter where you live or what you believe in, every community has a way of commemorating death.
We Brits are no exception. Just when you thought the Victorians left us with nothing but electric trains, window shopping and Christmas trees, who knew that they invented our black funeral dress-code? And we have two main options to choose between: burial or cremation. These traditional ceremonies are a hugely important way for many people to gather with family and friends and say goodbye to a loved one, but unfortunately they aren't great for the environment. Tot up the impact of coffin materials and varnish, imported flowers using oasis, a hearse, an elaborate headstone, maintenance for the manicured burial grounds, an eerie graveyard with bats flying overhead (okay, so not always) or the slightly 1970's fossil-fuel-burning crematorium where there's an outside chance you'll see James Bond escaping from a coffin. Or maybe that's just in Diamonds Are Forever?
Many people are now choosing a more eco-friendly way to return their loved ones to nature: a 'green funeral'. You can opt for simple linen or wool shrouds, wicker or cardboard coffins that biodegrade, and a designated woodland burial area with lots of trees and wildflowers. Pesticides aren't used, the graves are dug by hand, and grass is left for insects and flowers to thrive, so no need for gas-guzelling machinery.
There are more and more of these sites springing up. Nearby we have Terrington, Rufforth, and Fulford, plus our local friendly funeral directors are also able to cater for green-minded folk. Fielders have introduced an electric vehicle into their funeral fleet, and they offset their carbon emissions. But this is clearly a difficult topic, where decisions are made at a time of immense sadness, stress and often with significant financial constraints, plus the need to please sometimes squabbling family members. Funerals really do bring out the best in us don't they?!
At OSMP we recognise how important end-of-life care is and we are passionate about helping our patients plan ahead, so they have peace of mind and the chance to chat through any wishes or concerns with their families and others involved in their care. We are trying to banish the stigma over discussing death and dying, and you'll often hear us ask about issues such as resuscitation and power of attorney - concepts that may not have been routinely spoken of 10 years ago for fear of causing offence.
If you'd like to chat more about the issues above, please come in and see us. We are a very friendly bunch. There's also some fantastic information available from Dying Matters (follow them on twitter at @DyingMatters), Sue Ryder, and Marie Curie.
Next time it's women's health...