Living Legacies . New Zealand's Natural Funeral Company Thu, 07 Sep 2017 19:14:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 First South Island natural burial ./first-south-island-natural-burial/ ./first-south-island-natural-burial/#respond Tue, 05 Oct 2010 06:13:43 +0000 ./?p=343 First South Island natural burial

Wednesday October 6th, 3pm, Motueka cemetery.

./first-south-island-natural-burial/feed/ 0
Yarra’s Story ./yarras-story/ Tue, 28 Sep 2010 00:06:39 +0000 ./?p=293 Celebrating Yarra

I would have come across Lynda’s book, Living Legacies, about 6 years before Yarra died. At the time it seemed likely that my wife would not be living for that many more years. So naturally we wanted to prepare ourselves for her dying.

Almost everything Lynda says in her book made total sense to me. And I love the way she is really matter-of-fact about what needs doing when a person dies, yet writes with sensitivity, almost poetic, around our feelings and needs at that time.

Yarra had severe multiple sclerosis. After becoming wheelchair-bound in 2001,she lost all movement in her limbs by about 2004. Her ability to speak had deteriorated markedly by 2002, and disappeared totally soon after. She died in 2007, aged 43.
A close childhood friend of Yarra’s, who is also a photographer, published a book of photographs, entitled LIVING, about her life as it was in 2003. I love these photo’s. They tell a part of the story of Yarra’s life, her struggles and challenges, and mostly, her acceptance and celebration, of what is.

Swallowing food and drink had become increasingly difficult by 2000, and in 2001, almost impossible. So after much discussion between Yarra, her parents, and myself, we decided to allow a direct tube to be inserted into her stomach, enabling her to have liquid food. At the same time we made legal provision for Yarra, or myself, with medical power of attorney, to reverse this intervention in the natural process of her life, at any time in the future.

And we did in fact do this 6 years later, when we stopped using the tube, ceasing food and fluids to Yarra.

Throughout Yarra’s illness, we (family/whanau on her side and mine) always tried to include Yarra in all discussions concerning her welfare ~ including, of course, her death and dying. For example: in the regular discussions with her GP. In her last year or so these included the question of using antibiotics, or not, and the big one around the use of her feeding tube.

For years, Yarra and I had regular sessions with our counsellor, and even a few including her parents. How were we doing with the many challenges in our lives?

In 2006 it looked like Yarra was heading for pneumonia, and I had to decide whether we were going to use antibiotics. I remember sitting in the garden of Motueka Community Hospital (where Yarra lived) with Yarra in her bed on wheels, beside me. We sat with this question for about two hours. And I became very clear that we would not.

The pneumonia miraculously did not eventuate. But for a day or two we were preparing for her death. Which was an amazing preparation for her eventual death, the following year. Quite some discussion took place between Yarra’s parents and siblings (in the U.S.) and myself, around everyone’s feelings and needs concerning her dying. Based partly on discussions with Yarra years before, when she was still able to speak, we had a strong sense that she was ready to move on ~ a feeling that had been growing over several years. And we were ready to let her go.

At home here in the Motueka Valley, one evening in late January (2007), Vikki and Irma (two of our closest friends) and I, sat with Yarra and we discussed together how we would like everything to happen, when Yarra would leave her body. When would this be? A sense of trust developed that the knowing would come. Simply, the knowing would come.

In June, when pneumonia again threatened, we stopped feeding Yarra.

A friend had already made her coffin, which we started decorating. Her parents and sister came over from the U.S., and we began our vigil with Yarra for her last couple of weeks. Of course this was quite an intense time for us all, but for me also, mostly, very beautiful. I shall never forget those hours and hours of sitting with Yarra, as we both dived ever more deeply. I also remember taking every care to stay healthy during this time, I wanted to be totally there with her. So I greatly appreciated her father being with her those nights, enabling me to get enough sleep.

Yarra, for the greater part, seemed very clear, and accepting of her approaching death.

Some years before, Yarra and I had met someone who had been caring for her husband up to his death. The main part of that quite brief meeting, for me, was her wonder around the TRUST her man had had in her. I have never forgotten that, and never more so than in those last two weeks, as Yarra put her total trust in me.

Although I had mostly assumed that I would really want to be present at Yarra’s actual last breath, when the time came, I realised this was not so important for me any more. About half an hour before she died, her mother and father being with her, I felt a need for spaciousness, to be outside in the garden ~ where I walked singing songs of celebration, rejoicing in Yarra’s release from her body.

Then, the silence……

At the Hospital, we had total support from the staff. With one of the nurses we felt closest to, I had made preparations for washing Yarra’s body, dressing her etc. Her body was not, of course, taken away to be embalmed. Together with her parents, I was in total control of the whole ‘funeral’ process.

When the time came, first Yarra’s mother, then her father, indicated that they wanted to be part of washing their daughter’s body, together with the nurse and me. I totally loved doing this. Sharing this simple act together was such a wonderful experience for me, to really feel the lifelessness of her body. I am sure it contributed greatly to the relative ease of my grieving, and I strongly recommend this hands-on experience. And it was yet another deepening of my connection with Yarra’s parents.

We gently closed her mouth, and held her jaw there with a scarf around her head for a day. (Though later, my sister pointed out that for many years Yarra tended to have her lips slightly open! ~ after she lost her speech.)

We then laid Yarra’s body in the coffin, and with the help of hospital staff, carried it out to her wheelchair van ~ at the same time singing together, led by the nurse manager. During the trip to her place from mls vancouver, for about an hour, there
was a spectacular display of rainbows and other lighting in the sky!

We laid the body out on a bed, where it remained for two days. I was happily surprised to find how easy and fulfilling it was to sleep on my bed next to Yarra’s those nights.

June 2007 was a very cold winter, so we did not have to worry about anything like ice around the body. But neither did I light a fire those days.

Family and friends came to visit, including many children. And the coffin was decorated some more.

When my sister-in-law asked me about taking photographs of Yarra’s body I felt some ambivalence. But now I feel very grateful for those photo’s. I have looked many times at one particular photo and I am often amazed at Yarra’s beauty in death, as much as in life.

Somehow the idea arose to have the cremation of Yarra’s body before the Celebration of her life, where we had the ashes in an urn. This felt OK. Though when I went to another funeral recently, I also appreciated having the body right there amongst us, just reminding us that the person really wasn’t there any more.

Some 30-40 family and friends gathered at the crematorium, and Yarra’s parents led a short ceremony. Several of us then helped push the coffin into the furnace, 8-year old Luka pushed the furnace button, and we sang some songs as the coffin burned. It was important to me that we participated in every step of the process, not a coffin just disappearing behind black curtains.

The next day we had Yarra’s Celebration at the Riverside Community Hall (formerly a church) in Lower Moutere. Our friend Irma had offered to facilitate this event, which I was very happy with. At other funerals, I have usually not felt very connected with a celebrant who has never known the person who has died. Also, I
generally find it hard to maintain my interest with most eulogies I have heard, especially the many chronological details that are common. With Yarra, the majority of those who spoke focused on aspects of her life that had touched us most.

We released some helium balloons outside, something Yarra had thought of at my mother’s funeral. At the end, after afternoon tea there were still some 30 of us to dance our farewell, with music.

This is my story, for now, of Yarra’s dying. Obviously, there is much that has been left unsaid. I invite you to contact me about any aspect you would like to explore further.

Kris Kolff

Only when you drink from the river of silence ./only-when-you-drink-from-the-river-of-silence/ ./only-when-you-drink-from-the-river-of-silence/#respond Fri, 06 Aug 2010 02:30:44 +0000 ./?p=284 “Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”

~ Kahlil Gibran ~


./only-when-you-drink-from-the-river-of-silence/feed/ 0
Ancient Egyptians believed ./ancient-egyptians-believed/ ./ancient-egyptians-believed/#respond Fri, 06 Aug 2010 02:15:49 +0000 ./?p=270 Ancient Egyptians believed that upon death they would be asked two questions and their answers would determine whether they could continue their journey in the afterlife.

The first question was,
“Did you bring joy?”
The second was,
“Did you find joy?”

~ Leo Buscaglia ~


“The person who says
it cannot be done
should not interrupt
the person who is doing it.”

~ Chinese Proverb ~

./ancient-egyptians-believed/feed/ 0
More precious than any fiery diamond ./241/ Fri, 06 Aug 2010 01:36:36 +0000 ./?p=241 “More precious than any fiery diamond
Is the flowering human heart
Opening like a poppy head
And like a poppy

~ Ruth Dallas ~

The soul would have no rainbow ./236/ ./236/#respond Fri, 06 Aug 2010 01:32:56 +0000 ./?p=236 “The soul would have no rainbow
had the eye no tears.”


Oh! Snatched Away In Beauty’s Bloom

Oh! Snatched away in beauty’s bloom,
On thee shall press no ponderous tomb;
But on thy turf shall roses rear
Their leaves, the earliest of the year;
And the wild cypress wave in tender gloom:

And oft by yon blue gushing stream
Shall Sorrow lean her drooping head,
And feed deep thought with many a dream,
And lingering pause and lightly tread;
Fond wretch! As if her step disturbed the dead!

Away! We know that tears are vain,
That death nor heeds nor hears distress:
Will this unteach us to complain?
Or make one mourner weep the less?
And thou – who tell’st me to forget,
Thy looks are wan, thine eyes are wet.

~ Byron ~

“Our lives will be remembered
by the gifts we leave our children.”

./236/feed/ 0
So we must love ./so-we-must-love/ ./so-we-must-love/#respond Fri, 06 Aug 2010 01:26:47 +0000 ./?p=232 “So we must love
While these moments are still called today
Take part in the pain of this passion play
Stretching our youth as we must
Until we are ashes to dust
Until time makes history of us.”

~ Emily Saliers ~

autumn leaves

“Do not save your loving speeches
For your friends till they are dead;
Do not write them on their tombstones,
Speak them rather now instead.”

~ Anna Cummins ~

lake wakatipu

./so-we-must-love/feed/ 0
I went to the woods ./221/ ./221/#respond Thu, 05 Aug 2010 08:52:12 +0000 ./?p=221 tui

“I went to the woods because
I wished to live deliberately,
to front only
the essential facts of life,
and see if I could not learn
what it had to teach,
and not, when I came to die,
discover that I had not lived.”

~ Henry David Thoreau ~


./221/feed/ 0
Death reminds us to live ./215/ ./215/#respond Thu, 05 Aug 2010 08:40:44 +0000 ./215/ rimu

“Death reminds us to live
if we confront it every day”

~ Helen Brown ~


./215/feed/ 0
We are here for the rivers ./203/ ./203/#respond Thu, 05 Aug 2010 06:16:50 +0000 ./?p=203 “We are here for the rivers,
Here for the forests,
Here for the planet,
The place of our birth.

We are here for the children.
We are not an illusion.
We will never allow them
To kill mother Earth.”

~ Brenda Liddiard ~

Graham river

./203/feed/ 0