If you only had 30 days to live…

I read an article this week about the latest self-development workshops. It follows the surprising success of an American book One Month to Live: Thirty Days To A No-Regrets Life which asks what you would change in your life if you were asked that question. Workshops are now inviting people to consider working through the way we spend our lives and how they might be improved.

The first exercise  asked : what would you do if you had 20 years to live; 10 years; 5 years; 2 years; 1 year; 6 months; 3 months; 30 days; 1 day? For each time limit, you write for 10 minutes.  ‘Time once spent cannot be reclaimed’ they say before asking people to journal how they spend every minute of the day. How much time is spent on work, on watching TV, on sport and hobbies, eating, sleeping, etc? ‘Once an hour, minute or moment is over, it’s gone forever.’ Have you got the balance right?

So, if you were certain your life would end in a few weeks, what would be your biggest regret? I guess for many people it would be about spending more time with the people you love. It probably wouldn’t be about seeing who has been kicked out of Big Brother this week. When I take funerals for people who have died suddenly, I often hear stories of regrets, things left unsaid, places and people not visited. Of course most of us don’t know when we are going to die but if we spent some time pondering these questions perhaps we might make some life changes for the better.


1. If you only had one month to live, what would you change?

2. If you were certain your life would end in a few weeks, what would be your biggest regret? Why?

3. Look through your mobile phone contacts. Who do you consider the most important? How often do you phone them compared to others on the list?

4. If you knew you had only one month to live, what material goods would you give away, sell or put in the bin?

5. For what would you like to be remembered? How are you contributing to this goal right now?

I am going through a bit of No 4 right now as I move to a house with less storage and cupboard space and no double garage to fill with junk and old furniture. If you want any garden chairs, a Gazelle exercise glider (don’t say a word, don’t even think it!), a large pink comfy chair – in fact, why don’t you come and have a rummage before Freecycle gets it all?

Over to you now…


Subscribe To EulogyI picked up a new magazine at the airport called Eulogy – the world’s 1st magazine to celebrate life and death. There were not many advertisements in it except for some for Interflora, the Co-op, Cancer Research and the Woodland Trust.  Articles included: Emma Freud on her dad; a soldier’s tale; a Samaritans volunteer tells her story; Boy George’s reminiscences about a friend who died; global funeral rites (China); how obituaries are written; poetry and comedy snippets about funerals and death. Everything, in fact, except religion. The Editor, Alfred Tong, states:

We have no religious remit, not any social or political agenda.

I was not expecting it to be full of religious anecdotes but I feel really sorry that it was so dismissed. Surely it merited at least one article?

What have I been reading?

Surrounded, as I have been this week, by death I picked up a copy of Sum (Forty tales from the afterlives) by David Eagleman. What a joy it is. It is a slim book packed full of short stories about heaven, hell and the afterlife. Some are lingering still, some I didn’t quite ‘get’, and others require a second or third reading. There were echoes of CS Lewis’ The Great Divorce and all those jokes which begin ‘a man died and went to heaven…’

Imagine that in the afterlife you relive all your experiences but this time with the events reshuffled in a completely new order where they are all grouped together. So you take all your pain at once (27 hours of it) but then you are agony-free for the rest of your afterlife. 18 months in queues, one year reading books, two years of boredom, two weeks wondering what happens when you die, three weeks realising you are wrong…

Imagine that when you arrive in the afterlife you discover that God is a huge fan of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley because finally he has met someone who understands him…

Imagine that death is a dream – someone else’s dream in which you play a part along with other actors. In between scenes you all stand around backstage and hope that the next dream will involve a restaurant and you can get a free meal out of it…

Imagine that God is a married couple and humans created in their own image, although on certain nights when they’re feeling liberal, each creates a member of the opposite sex, just to see what it’s like…

The author is a neuroscientist and writer and this book is just packed full of bizarre, funny and strange stories that will stay with you long after you’ve finished the book.

After the joy of our last Book Group book The War of Jenkins’ Ear by Michael Morpurgo, which was recommended by the Church Times, I read War Horse by the same author. Ever since I read the Chronicles of Narnia and a couple of books by Madeleine l’Engle I have really been into children’s books. The War Horse tells the story, from the horse’s point of view, of Joey from colt to farmhorse to the battlefields in France. All along the way there are people who love him and others who abuse him, and you’ll need your hankies at the end. It tells of the futility of war in an exceptional way and of love and loyalty. This book is not just for children and I’d love to see the play which has received rave reviews.

Rose petals

There is a tradition in some Spanish villages that when a young woman is engaged to be married, she is given a cloth bag.  The bag becomes a repository for rose petals.  Whenever she receives roses on any occasion, throughout her life, the fallen petals are collected and put in this bag. Upon the woman’s death, the petal-filled bag is sewn together and placed as a pillow under her head in the coffin – a pillow of petals.

Isn’t that just lovely?

Helen Muirhead RIP

Helen sadly died in the early hours of this morning.  Her body will be received into church on Tuesday 15 December at 4.30pm and her funeral will be on Wednesday at 1pm and thereafter at Seafield Crematorium at 2pm.

Rest eternal grant unto her, O Lord,
and let light perpetual shine upon her.

Big Bulky Anglican is laid to rest

Just back from Tom Allen’s funeral (aka Big Bulky Anglican to you bloggers out there). Tom, like most clergy, had a little black book of funeral liturgies, poems, prayers etc and it was Tom’s own funeral that we heard today. although I’m sure Fr Pip added his own wee touches here and there. Bishop David gave a wonderful homily which gave those of us who had never met Tom a real taste of the man who was Big Bulky Anglican.

One of Tom’s favourite songs was Hill of Angels by Steve Butler. What a joy to have Steve play it live. (You can find it on Sticky Music’s website on the CD Love Come Down and others.)

Lots of clergy there and many, many bishops too. In fact, it was black and purple as far as the eye could see. With splash of joyful colour from the family.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Bigbulkyanglican RIP

Sad news for the blogging community today when we read that Tom Allen (aka Bigbulkyanglican) has died. Tom recently moved to Linlithgow when he took up the post of Chaplain to the Mission to Seafarers. He was a lovely man – passionate and kind.

Prayers ascending for his family and friends. The Bloggers salute him.

A question of death

In Church we keep registers of baptisms, marriages and deaths. It occurred to me today that they don’t really ask the right questions.

For example, in the Burial Register (which includes Cremation now) they don’t ask for the date of death (or birth for that matter). All they require is the date you fill it in and the date of the Burial or Cremation. So when it comes to your Book of Remembrance for your Years Mind you can’t back check whether the dates are correct or not.

In St Mark’s we have two Books of Remembrance – one on the Requiem Altar and a little one that I keep at home for the pew sheets. There have been a few discrepancies noted and we don’t know which dates are correct. So it may be that our Years Mind is actually the date of the ceremony rather than the actual death.

It also means that we can’t put the details on the internet for those interested in doing family trees because we don’t have the info needed.

Personally, I always write the dates in any space I can find.

Lou, RIP

Friday was a sad day. A friend’s aunt died suddenly at home just a week after undergoing major heart surgery. It was a shock to them all, coming as it did after spirits were raised in hope.

What an honour for me to be with the family at their time of grief. And what a joy to be able to sit with them and listen once more to the stories of a remarkable woman’s life. And what a life! Although Lou and Fin had no children of their own, there are countless ‘children’ of theirs scattered throughout the globe. Many will mourn the loss of this kind and generous soul.