Posts Tagged ‘death’

Yesterday, I cycled past a dead body

Friday, October 6th, 2017 | Life

I regularly cycle up and down the canal towpath and often think to myself “I hope I don’t fall in – all of my stuff would get wet, and I would too, which could be unpleasant or maybe even dangerous, on a cold day.”

But, having lived in Leeds for the past few decades, I should be aware that the real risk is not falling into the two feet of water. It’s not being able to get out because you’re being torn apart by inferi.

Yesterday, Elina had the day off, so I took a break from studying so that we could go for a bike ride. We returned around 3:30 pm. Then, at 4:45 pm, this happened:

It is possible the body went into the canal in the hour between us getting home and someone else spotting it. But, more likely, it was already there when we cycled past it.

It was just around the corner from our house, so the entire street was lined with emergency service vehicles. Who knew Leeds had a CSI? I hope David Caruso is available to play the TV adaptation.

Beyond the jokes, though, it is no doubt a sad occasion. Bodies do turn up with an uncomfortable regularity, but usually, it’s a drunken student far downstream. Let’s hope it’s a high-end sex robot that someone has mistaken for a real human.

How to write a good eulogy

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017 | Public Speaking

Writing the perfect eulogy is a tough business, especially when you want to do justice to a loved one. These tips will help guide you in the delicate task.

Writing and delivering a eulogy is rarely a pleasant thing to do. However, when you are called upon to do it, chances are you will want to do the best job you can do in honouring the loved one you have lost. You rarely get extended notice, so it is best to be prepared. Here are some tips.

It’s not a biography

The structure of a eulogy will typically talk through a person’s life. This is a good guide for how to lay out your speech. However, it is important to remember that it is not a biography. Everyone at the funeral is likely to have known the person and their life story, so there is no benefit in parroting it back to them. Instead, you should concentrate on distilling the essence of their personality. Pick out a few bits to talk about that really show what kind of person they were.

Unless they were a complete bastard, in which case you should show a mix of their personality. There is no point denying their faults but focus on their good points also.

Use humour

At my public speaking club, I’m noted for adding humour to any situation. In fact, I used to joke that I thought it was always appropriate, though I hadn’t had a eulogy to try it out at yet. That was years ago, and now I have had a eulogy to try it out at, and still stick by my conviction.

Humour is a wonderful tool for keeping people engaged and breaking the tension. it can bring the mood of a room right up. You might think that a funeral is not the place for a eulogy, but I could not disagree more. You need to use humour to lighten the mood not just in spite of it being a funeral, but because of it. You want to leave attendees with a positive memory of the deceased, not a solemn downcast version.

Tell stories

This goes for any speech, ever. Stories have an emotional attachment. People will quickly forget what you said, but how you made them feel will stick around much longer. Humans love stories. So skip the boring details and lay out your speech out hopping from story to story.

If another member of the family has a lovely story about the deceased, invite them up to give it.


Wednesday, January 4th, 2017 | Family & Parenting, Life, Thoughts

I have been meaning to write about funerals for a while. Looking back, I think there has been quite a lot of emotional resistance, so I will probably keep this post brief.

I was only six when both my grandfathers passed away, and not much older when my uncle died. Therefore, when my grandma passed away in August, it was the first funeral I had been to as an adult and the first one where I really knew what was going on.

In a way, I was actually curious to see how I would cope with the whole affair. For years I had known that eventually, someone would die, and had no idea how it would affect me. It turns out that I coped just fine. There was no emotional breakdown, nor much in the way of tears. Nor was it a surprise, though: when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I knew we were on the clock.

Mostly, I felt bitter at the world for my own selfish reasons. Venla, who arrived two months later, would have been her first great-grandchild. I felt I had failed her in some way.

It has been a while since I have been truly nervous before giving a speech. Even my wedding was fine. But delivering the eulogy was a tough one. I always joked at my public speaking club “humour improves any speech: but I have not had a chance to try it out in a eulogy yet”. Well, now I have had that chance, and I can confirm it is a good idea. If anything, humour is even more important at occasions that are bound to include an element of sadness.

The truth is, I already had a few ideas for what I was going to say, should I be called upon to give a eulogy. Because that is what happens when you have an anxious mind that never switches off: you think about all the horrible things that could happen to everyone you love, and what you would do if it happened.

That all sounds very gloomy, and that is not the message I want to convey. Actually, funerals are fun. They are enjoyable, in a macabre way. Not because it is a celebration of life, which it is, but because it is a time when an entire family comes together.

Over the past year, I have witnessed the match and dispatch of the hatch-match-dispatch triangle. These events are important. They bring families together, using social rules and customs that other events have not been able to achieve. You get to see people you do not normally see, and bond over an emotional event, forming stronger ties between those that remain.

Funerals are always going to be bittersweet by nature. But they provide more than closure. More than a celebration of someone’s life. They are part of the social glue that help hold families together.

Joan Rankin, 1925-2016

Sunday, August 7th, 2016 | Family & Parenting


Here’s to 90 years well-lived. We will miss you, Grandma. We all love you so much.

Jo Cox, 1974-2016

Sunday, June 19th, 2016 | News


On Thursday 16 June, Jo Cox was attacked in her parliamentary constituency of Batley and Spen. She died from her injuries. There can be little doubt that we are all horrified by this event. Such a thing happening here in Yorkshire seems almost unbelievable. The attacks leaves a family without a mother, and a constituency without a tireless champion of the vulnerable.

Sadly, we may simple be seeing the reflection of the values we have built. As BHA chief exec Andrew Copson put it:

So what do we do? How do we respond to this event as a society? The quote that comes to mind the most is that beautiful Martin Luther King quote:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

The way we recover from this is not by seeking revenge. It’s not by becoming angry or further dividing our society. It is by coming together, to re-build and re-affirm our values of tolerance, respect and openness.


Friday, April 4th, 2014 | Books

Given the popularity of the 20th Discworld novel, Hogfather, I started to think that given the anticipation I had built up on finally reaching it, it could only really be a disappointment.

I was a little. It had all the right ingredients, and by that I mean it had Death in it. Also The Wizards. But it just did not do it for me. I am not a big fan of Susan Sto Helit, she is just a bit too normal.


Soul Music

Friday, August 30th, 2013 | Books

The sixteenth book in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series looks at music with rocks in it. It might be just a noise but it’s all the kids are listening to these days.

It has some good characters in it, including Susan (the granddaughter of Death), Dibbler and the Death of Rats. The commentary on the music industry, stardom and the rise of rock and roll was somewhat interesting, though I didn’t find it particularly deep.


Reaper Man

Saturday, July 6th, 2013 | Books

The 11th novel in the Discworld series, Reaper Man tells the story of what happened when Death was retires and goes to work on a farm. This is bad news for senior wizard Windle Poons who finds himself stuck between the world of the living and the dead.

Of course, any novel with Death in is going to be a good one. But I’m not sure how much I enjoyed the other half of the book – the parallel story of Windle Poons. At times it felt like the Fresh Start Club had been invented just to fill a bit of space in the story before getting back to Death.


James Gandolfini, 1961-2013

Friday, June 21st, 2013 | News

James Gandolfini

James Gandolfini, best known for his role as gangster Tony Soprano, passed away aged just 51, from a suspected heart attack. A Sopranos marathon is definitely in order.


Monday, May 13th, 2013 | Books

In the forth book of the Discworld series, a young man named Mort becomes Death’s apprentice. This had a lot of resonance with me as I considered a similar career path back when I was younger, before deciding to go on and become the lion tamer you all now know and love.

I found the book far more witty and engaging than the previous books in the series. Not that I didn’t enjoy them, because I did, but I thought this level was on a level above them – it was simply better. Though of course, it’s easier to write a great novel when you have an inherently funny topic, such as Death.