I couple of weeks ago I had the very great honour of helping to weave a coffin for a recently lost loved one. I’ve not worked with willow in this way before, although I have been thinking for some time that I would love to learn. There’s something about being involved in this process that has struck a chord with me ever since I heard that willow coffins even existed.
It was, quite simply, amazing. And it touched me deeply on some well buried, ancient level.
To lose someone so precious was heartbreaking. To be a part of the preparation for her burial was incredible. We talked about her while we bent willow – rods so strong that our hands ached by the end of the day. There wasn’t quite blood and sweat involved but there were certainly some tears that fell. Tears as another memory surfaced of something deeply wonderful or deeply frustrating that passed between us. Tears as it hit over and over again that these were moments that we would never again experience in the flesh. Thoughts of lost opportunities. Memories of things that weren’t said. Or things that were said and could never now be taken back.
The thing that kept going over and over in my head and in my heart, though, was just how ‘right’ this process felt. Here we were, female relatives (with the help of a very lovely man) preparing, with our own bare hands, something that would carry our loved one to her grave. Into the coffin we wove love-filled messages on ribbons and treasured photographs. We wove herbs, plants, flowers and other precious gifts sent by friends and family, people’s whose lives have been touched in some way by their relationship with R. We wove love, grief, laughter, and memory upon memory upon memory. We wove parts of ourselves, and indeed all those who knew and loved her, into the vessel that would hold her beautiful, precious body on it’s final earth-bound journey.
We came closer to her in death, and in this way came closer to death itself. And while death will always hold an air of sadness, even tragedy, just by coming that little bit closer to it, in ways that are personal and meaningful to us, I believe it can feel less frightening, less unknown, less like the ending it sometimes overwhelmingly seems to be and maybe a little bit more like a part of the whole, unending cycle it truly is.
Our loved one’s body now rests well and truly in peace. And through her death and through the giving back of her body to the earth, she will continue to give life to others. And so it goes on…