• Carol Stobie

Talk about it - and make a memory

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

- Lawrence Binyon

Just how often do we sit down and talk about death?

The other day in my small town, over 30 folk came together, in response to a local invitation, to talk about just that. Not so much about our own inevitable endings, but about how we can strengthen our informal networks of support in times of grief, bereavement or terminal illness. It turns out that many local folk care about this and want to help. And so we are applying to become one of Scotland’s Compassionate Communities, which will (if we’re selected) mean we gain specialist community development support to help us realise our vision.

Some of us would like to take the new EASE training course in end-of-life care, to help the terminally ill and sit with them in their final days. Others, through local networks, will help raise public awareness and spark off the needful conversations, through a range of activities and events, including a Death by the Sea event at our local version of the Fringe Festival next summer.

After that exciting conversation, many of us then took part in an Absent Friends workshop to create mementos of someone we’ve lost. Skilfully led by artists from PARTicipate, we decorated doves, poppies or pebbles to place in the old telephone booth spaces in North Berwick High Street, where you can see them right now – and even add to them, if you missed the workshop. The conversations that took place during this activity, and over coffee and tea, were quite remarkable and opened connections we might never have experienced otherwise. Afterwards, we stood together gazing at our creations, and those who wished to shared the name of the person they were commemorating in their creation, maybe even something more about them and what they had meant. It was a profoundly moving moment, and I felt privileged to have been part of it - this sparked even more connections.

The volunteer-led North Berwick Coast Health and Well Being Association, and its Community Connections project (for which I work), are heartened by all of this and thrilled to think that so many folk will help in this future endeavour to make our community as compassionate as it can possibly be. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

As an independent celebrant for funerals, I also felt lucky to share in those stories that were so precious and powerful for each of us, and somehow I think it may help in my future work.

If you’d like to add to the creation in North Berwick High Street, please decorate a smooth and fairly substantial pebble with the name of the person you want to pay tribute to, perhaps adding a symbol or image that represents them, and add them to the creation when you can. I can’t tell you how rewarding that tiny action can sometimes prove to be.

Here’s to our future as a more compassionate community, reaching out with warmth and understanding.

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