The idea of building a cargo bike specifically for transporting a coffin to the final resting place of a deceased person came about in 2006 during many conversations with my then 84-year-old mother Luise.
The two topics of "dying" and "death" preoccupied me early on. For they are definitely two topics that can be considered separately from each other. My preoccupation with these two topics arose from a social-aesthetic consideration and critique: namely, the funeral culture in Germany, which I already found alienating as a teenager.
Funeral directors and the media often use the expression "be prepared". But how, I asked myself at a young age, should and can a society learn, internalise and apply this "being prepared"? How is that possible when the established funeral culture here links the self-evidence of finiteness with fear on the one hand and represses it from everyday life on the other? How is that possible if our society has only learned to deal with these issues in an uptight manner through taboo?
Yes, we do! We have to talk about it!
"You don't talk about that", "I don't want to have anything to do with that". We all know dozens of such sentences, sayings.
Yes, we do! We have to talk about it! Because we have to do with it, will have to do with it, have always had to do with it. Nothing is as self-evident as death. It is not only part of life, strictly speaking it is much more self-evident than life.
I think that dying and death need to be brought out of a dark niche and back into the light. They also do not belong in the cold and dark season, where we like to place them, but in every day of every year.
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Why these fears?
I have always been disconcerted by the haste with which the deceased are taken from their home environment and shipped to an anonymous car. How they are usually buried without the active participation of relatives, friends, neighbours, relatives, colleagues.
Where do these fears come from to deal with the most natural thing in life, namely dying and the subsequent death? Why this repression and hiding, why this stigmatisation by terms like "black", "dark" and "cold"?
By repressing and hiding we lose our dead
Life is full of colour, death is part of life, there is life before death. What keeps us from talking about dying and death as a matter of course and thus from reintegrating the preparation for the self-evident into our everyday life?
Through this repression and hiding, we ensure that our dead are lost to us. And with it our respect for life, the life lived and the life to be lived.
I find it disconcerting when obituaries contain phrases like "we have lost our 94-year-old grandmother". Are relatives, friends or colleagues a possession that can be lost?
They will not be lost to us if we take care of them. If we accompany them, keep them in our midst and hold them, if we talk to them and about finitude. Instead of getting rid of them when we say goodbye and simply going about business as usual.
I mean that instead of saying goodbye, we must learn to give it. We have to dedicate ourselves to dying, to death and the dead, actively. In everyday life. Because dying and death are as natural as going to work, eating breakfast and wearing shoes. They are even more self-evident!
And we will only succeed in this if we deal openly with death and dying and bring these issues back into our everyday lives.
The funeral bike
That's why I built the funeral bike.
To bring the coffin visibly on the loading platform of this funeral vehicle, accompanied by the guests and the public to the final resting place. With the active assistance of as many people as possible in the form of preparation for the upcoming funeral and the convoy.
"Carrying to the grave": This means nothing other than not leaving the burial to anonymous companies - i.e. not leaving the coffin or urn to anonymous carriers - but becoming active again: carrying it yourself and lowering it into the final resting place. To close the grave afterwards with a shovel and earth.
Through this physical, mental and emotional cooperation we can say goodbye.
Banished with a system?
In the past, it was a matter of course to take the coffined deceased to their final resting place with a cart or on the shoulders. Publicly, for everyone to see. Death had its place in the middle of society.
Why are death and dying pushed out of the public sphere in today's societies bursting with material prosperity? Does our consumer society, trimmed to "more, bigger, louder, faster...", keep us from dealing with dying and death, finiteness and passing? I mean "YES", systematically and specifically.
The way of life dictated to us by the dogmas of "growth!" "progress!" and the postulate of "further, further, further" suggests to us that it will always go on like this. But no, it doesn't! All our lives are finite, because we are mortal. Since everything is mortal.
We are finite. There is no way around that
Death teaches us humility, to pause, to prepare, to respect life and at the same time enjoy it, to understand it as a miracle and a gift instead of seeing it as "having", as consumption and possession.
Because we are finite, mortal. There is no way around that.
To develop courage and respect for life, we need teaching material. Let death be our teacher. Only then will we develop respect for life.
For this, we need to talk about both poles: about procreation and birth, about dying and death.
So let us speak about it. As a matter of course. Let us always keep it in mind.
Author: Michael Olsen / Source: www.bohana.de
- Michael Olsen
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