Would you like to join me on my trip to seven death festivals?
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It's all the fun of following me around the world, but with none of the motion sickness, currency calculations or anxiety over whether it's ok to bring up zombies. Bring up zombies ALL YOU WANT buddy, because you're alone at your computer.
I’m wiping up spilt honey in a dead man’s pantry. It’s an easy meal for the ants that are crawling through the cracks in the walls, but I scrub until paint comes off the wood. Lately this house has been more than generous to the local insect population. My fiancé, Dion, is clearing out the fridge, gingerly passing dripping packs of green-tinged chicken to the bin. At least meat doesn’t bloat, I think, and wonder if, given equal conditions, food and humans decay at similar rates…
How honoured was I when filmmaker Kristian Brodie, one of the geniuses behind Next Goal Wins, asked me to perform in the very first OneTrackMinds? Very, that's how.
OneTrackMinds is one of those nights that should, and hopefully will, become a London institution. Six guests - writers, comedians, musicians - get up and talk about the song that changed their life, and then we listen to the track. It took place at the stunning East London venue, Wilton's Music Hall (it's incredible – if you haven't been, you must go. Seriously, go and listen to someone read the ingredients on a pack of biscuits if it's showing there.)
I spoke about how a song helped me move from being a bereaved agoraphobe to someone who is travelling the world attending death festivals, writing a book and presenting a documentary.
Enjoy the terror in my voice in the moment I realise I'm attempting to tell hundreds of strangers a funny story about a dead body.
Hello fellow mortals!
The story starts with the day my husband and I found his father dead in his house. By the time we realised why he wasn't answering his emails, he had been dead for eight days.
The trauma led to a horrendous bout of agoraphobia. I may or may not* have tried to get over it by going to a supermarket to buy a sandwich, where I lost my nerve and threw said sandwich before running home.
*NB I did. I did do that.
I don't believe Britain is a good place to be when trying to overcome a trauma involving death. We're too afraid of it. We avoid direct mention of it, we have no mourning period – we're just expected to go back to work – and when people started meeting up to talk about death in the form of "death cafes", that made the news. People openly discussing death makes HEADLINES in this country.
I used to live in Mexico, where, as most people know, they have an annual festival for the dead. I started researching other countries where they have death festivals - or "deathtivals" as I now call them. This little research expedition led to what is probably the opposite of agoraphobia:
I am travelling the world attending deathtivals. Seven of them. One for every day we didn't find Chris.
I realise I am a strange person to be writing a book about death. I am not old or terminally ill, and as the daughter-in-law of the person who kicked this off by dropping dead so unexpectedly, I am an outsider – and I have been told I have no right to even feel this loss. Writing as a "grief outsider" I do of course hope to heal what time can't, and maybe even understand why facing death makes some throw a party, and others throw a sandwich.