To my great surprise the British media is currently trying to lift the lid on what it means to have a terminal disease and face your own death. Probably due to the huge numbers of people who are currently being diagnosed as terminally ill at midlife and younger. One of my favorite TV shows since arriving here is Billy’s Big Send Off by comedian Billy Connolly. He was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer and Parkinson’s disease. As you might expect, the show is full of black jokes such as the story Dame Judy Dench told him. A hearse passed in the street one day and her daughter wanted to know what it was. In a misguided attempt to shield her young child from the morbid truth, Judy fibbed, ‘It’s a wedding.’ To which her daughter replied ‘But why are they taking the wardrobe with them?’
Billy says when his time comes he wants ‘a simple box and a shallow grave’. Just to be sure, he went on a world tour of different funeral options. My favorite was Eloise Woods, a green burial ground in Texas, where it is all about letting the body return to nature. It looked just about perfect to me. The dead are wrapped in a simple beautiful shroud (no pimped up coffin). Loved ones can dig the grave if they choose, bring a picnic and hold their own service. At the other extreme, Billy watched as a rich coconut farmer was buried in a huge coconut-shaped coffin in Ghana (where people often go into debt for fancy funerals). He also looked into cremation (Laura’s choice). I was pleased to learn that in Eastern countries like Bali, fire is thought to release the spirit allowing it to travel up to heaven.