Art of Dying Art of Dying_Volume III_joomag | Page 18
JON UNDERWOOD'S FUNERAL
BY LOUISE WINTER
THIS ARTICLE WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE NATURAL DEATH CENTER'S MORE TO DEATH MAGAZINE
I was on a night bus home through London with a phone that was rapidly
running out of battery when I received a text from Jools, the sister of a friend of
mine. She asked if I was available to speak to her as it was rather urgent.
“We’ve had some terrible news,” she told me, after I’d rushed home, charged
my phone and called her, just before midnight. The line was crackling and I
couldn’t quite make out what she was saying. “… had a brain haemorrhage and
died this afternoon.”
“I am so sorry to hear that,” I said, wondering who she was talking about and
wondering whether a friend of a friend of a friend had died and perhaps their
family needed some advice about funerals. “Sorry, who did you say had died?”
The Jon she was talking about was Jon Underwood - her brother, my friend
and colleague, and the founder of Death Cafe. It was inconceivable that the man
who had started Death Cafe had died. But it was true; Jon had died suddenly
and unexpectedly at the age of 44 from undiagnosed acute prolymetic leukemia
on 27th June 2017.
Back in 2011, Jon invited a handful of people to gather in his front room
for an open and honest conversation about death over tea and cake. Just six
years later, over 5,300 Death Cafes have been hosted around the world. The
movement received international press coverage, even making it to the front
page of the New York Times.
One week Jon was taking his two children to school and planning the future
of Death Cafe; the following week, we were helping to plan his funeral.
Jools, his sister, asked me to step in and announce his death to the press in
relation to his life’s work, the Death Cafe movement. Inevitably, the matter of his
funeral came up during my discussions with his family and I passed on the many
offers of support from the funeral community in London and beyond, as so many
Jon Underwood was featured in
funeral professionals had known and loved Jon and his work and were keen to
Volume I & II of Art of Dying. You can do everything they could to give Jon a beautiful goodbye.
www.artofdyingmagazine.com. Wanstead were the obvious choice to take care of Jon and help his family with
read his Observations and his obituary at
Hasina Zaman and Allistair Anderson from Compassionate Funerals in
the funeral arrangements. They were not only friends of Jon’s but had also spent
many hours wandering around the City of London Cemetery with him discussing
the launch of their funeral service in Wanstead. He’d given them a particularly
hard time about the use of the word compassionate in their company name and
how that would be reflected in their work. They were and are exemplary funeral
directors who were local to Jon’s family home in East London, and I couldn’t
think of anyone better to take care of Jon and his family.
18 | ART OF DYING
Allistair and I were invited to Jon’s house on a Saturday afternoon to discuss