Death may not be a particularly savoury subject, but it's become a pretty active topic of conversation of late, since news of Wexford's eco-friendly graveyard broke.
The 7.5-acre Green Graveyard, situated about 12 miles from Enniscorthy, will be Ireland's first when it opens for burials in October. What makes it different is that it will ban big marble headstones, varnished coffins, stone tombs and all the usual things associated with burials. Instead, those wishing to rest here will do so in eco-friendly caskets and will be surrounded by native trees, flowers and wildlife. Identification comes in the way of subtle, engraved, stone markers.
I think it's a brilliant idea.
A few years ago, a dear friend of mine passed away. Born into an upper-middle class Scottish family, Gordon was a very free spirit. He was an artist, a musician and an anarchist who made his home squatting in Amsterdam. He was all the Pogues, a little bit Damien Hirst, a touch of Che Guevara and a significant amount of Peter Pan. His personality certainly couldn't be boxed off, and when he passed away, still a young man, a 'traditional' funeral would just not have worked.
Gordon was waked in his brother David's house in Edinburgh. Being a townie, I'd never been to a wake before, I'd never seen a body laid out and I'd certainly never seen the style of reed casket selected for this environmentally aware guy. It was beautiful, if such a word can be used for a type of coffin; so much more humane and delicate than what I was used to. It instantly removed that creepy conformity of death.
Then, we went to a grand civil building for a humanist ceremony. No religion, but plenty of reflection and tributes to my extraordinary friend, conducted by a soft-spoken humanist minister.
When the time came for Gordon to be laid to rest, he was buried in a graveyard similar to the one that will open in Wexford. It was the prettiest, most restful place I've ever seen.
Bluebells and other wild flowers grew all around. And only tall trees broke up the landscape, because headstones had been replaced by engraved stones along the main path, acknowledging those who lay somewhere nearby.
Gordon's unique and beautiful send-off made a huge impression on me and has stayed in my mind ever since.
As much as when the late journalist Jonathan Philbin Bowman left Donnybrook Church in 2000 to a string quartet playing Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.
Why should we all have identikit funerals? There are many sorts of brides, and First Communicants are all as individual as snowflakes, so why can't we be buried in a more individual way?