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St Mary's

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Funerals, churchyard, cemetery, death and dying

Woody Allen: "My relationship with death remains the same - I'm strongly against it,"

Death is the great taboo subject of this generation.

In some countries family and friends will file passed the open coffin of the deceased to pay their last respects.

In this country we keep the sight of the deceased out of view. I wonder if this practise tricks us into thinking that death is not that real and it probably won’t happen to us?

But it is something we should think about. We can prepare emotionally, psychologically and spiritually for our own death – it is going to come some day. As the ancient English Prayer Book has it ‘In the midst of life we are in death’. And also we can be better prepared for when those we love die before we do.


Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) that may help (with contributions from

Should I talk with him/her about the fact they are dying?

It’s all right to talk about dying if the person is receptive. Each situation has to be gauged individually. Not talking about death won’t make it go away, but talking about it can bring life back into your relationship. Talking about death is like stepping into uncharted territory. It can be liberating and cathartic.

There are no rules, except to play it by ear and listen to what the dying have to say.

How do I know when death is near?

Dying is like shutting down a large factory filled with engines and assembly lines and giant boilers. Everything does not suddenly go quiet when the off switch is pushed. Instead, the machinery creaks and moans as it slows to a halt, Unless suddenly felled by an accident, a heart attack, or other sudden trauma, most of our bodies are like those factories, creaking and moaning as they shut down. It can be difficult to remember that the winding-down process is natural. No matter how prepared we think we are for death, we do not let go of life easily. Death is as primitive as birth. Often loud and messy, it is always deeply authentic. We can find peace and dignity in this authenticity.

How many people die each year?

Around 500,000 people die in England each year, and it is predicted that this will rise to 590,000 within the next 20 years. Heart failure and stroke are the biggest killers. One in four people in the UK will die of cancer. With an increasingly ageing population, the majority of older people will be living with a number of conditions. For example, around 30% of people over the age of 85 with cancer will also have dementia.

Why should I talk about death? Isn’t it morbid?

Not at all. We all live and we all die, and life is something to be celebrated through to death.

We all need to talk about it - otherwise we, or our loved ones, may not die in the way we want. Talking about dying does not make it happen, or happen faster.

Not talking about dying and death has many unwanted consequences:

  • If relatives and loved ones do not know a person’s preferences, they may make decisions about care the dying person does not want

  • Close relatives may be unaware of how best to help and support a person who is approaching death

  • Those nearing death may feel isolated, distressed or frightened, which can impact on the level of pain they experience

People may die without writing a will, or relatives may be unsure about funeral wishes

Can I have a funeral service at St Mary’s Church (Overton or Laverstoke) if I have never been a member?

Yes. It helps to have had some substantial connection with the village. Speak to the Rector for more details.

Can my body or my ashes be buried in the Overton Cemetery/Churchyard?

Yes, if you

  • were a resident within the parish (this will include persons who had been resident in the parish but moved away due to old age or infirmity), or
  • were on the church electoral roll, or
  • were a regular attendee at church services (i.e. at least once a month for more than 4 years)
  • had a spouse already buried in the churchyard
  • had other substantial connections with the parish or church, at the Rector’s discretion.

What can I have as a headstone or memorial?

For the purpose of good management of the churchyard and cemetery and in the interests of families whose loved ones are also interred there, there are limitations as to what is permitted. These regulations are laid down by the diocese of Winchester:

Upright headstones should be no more than:

  • 4 feet high or less than 2 ft 6 inches.
  • 3 feet wide
  • 6 inches thick.

(For a child the headstone may be smaller.)

A headstone may be of

  • limestone,
  • slate (light grey, blue/black or green) or
  • granite (light grey, or charcoal provided it is a matt finish).

Memorial tablets for the interment of ashes should preferably be granite (grey, not polished) and the dimensions up to 18” x 18” x 2”.

For further information contact the Rector.

Can I choose the music/readings for the funeral service?

Yes. But it is best to discuss your ideas with the minister who will be taking the service. They may be able to help you with your decisions.

Should I bring my children?

These days many children attend funeral services. It is just as important for them to say goodbye as it is for adults. It is good to prepare them well for what will happen and what the atmosphere will be like.

Is it better to be buried or cremated?

The Church respects both. It is entirely up to you and your family. You may have environmental or space considerations. It is good to ask your family whether they would prefer to have the greater freedom to dispose of the ashes as they think best or to have a special place where they can come to visit regularly to remember and give thanks for you.

Are there any other regulations concerning what is permitted in the graveyard and cemetery?

See the attached document.

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How can I face my inevitable death without fear?

We are all going to die some time and none of us knows when that will be. Are you ready for that day?

The apostle Paul wrote in a letter ‘For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.’ He was in a Roman prison with the possibility of a death sentence hanging over him at the time.

For him it just meant that he would be more fully in the company of his Saviour, Lord and Friend and he could not think of anything better. How could he be so relaxed about the prospect of his imminent death?

The fear of death goes when we see it as the gateway to life. Jesus boldly declared that he had come ‘so that we might have life, life in abundance’. The apostle John said he had written his gospel in order that we ‘may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and that, through your faith in him, you may have life.’ If that wasn’t clear enough he added in a letter ‘I am writing this to you so that you may know that you have eternal life—you that believe in the Son of God.’ (1 John 5)

How could he be so sure?

Our hope (actually, our confidence) in life after death is based on one thing – the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Take that away and the whole edifice of the Christian faith crumbles to dust. ‘But the truth is that Christ has been raised from death, as the guarantee that those who sleep in death will also be raised.’ That’s what Paul said in a letter to the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 15).

What do we have to do to have that assurance and remove the fear?

Jesus answers that one. He said ‘Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many rooms and I am going ahead to prepare a place for you.’

What will it be like?

A doctor was visiting his dying patient in his bedroom at home. The patient had a Christian faith and so did the doctor. Death and what lay beyond was very much on the patient’s mind, so he asked the doctor what he thought heaven would be like. As the doctor thought about how he could answer that question there was a scratching at the bedroom door. The doctor said "Do you hear that scratching? That is my dog. I had brought him with me and left him downstairs. He must have got bored and came to look for me. He doesn’t know what is behind this door but he can hear his master’s voice and knows that I am in here. That is all he needs to know and that is why he wants to come in. It is the same for you. We don’t know what heaven is like but we know that our master is there and that is all we need to know."

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