Or: all we ever need to know about our last day on earth! It certainly was SLG outing with a difference when Jan organised for our group to visit the Kapiti Coast Funeral Home and take a tour through the crematorium.
Everyone listened intently as Andrew Malcolm explained the technical points of the high powered cremator. The machine came from USA and there are currently only three of this particular model out here in New Zealand. When it arrived, the staff had to thoroughly test it, and a sheep was used. Stew Woolley Sheep was weighed on the scales, the data was fed into the computer, and Stew Woolley was sent on his way. Once operational, the different materials of the coffins have to be factored in, the size and weight of the individual, and whether the deceased is a male or female. Yes, it does make a difference!
Each coffin is dealt with one at a time, and after being weighed, the name plate is taken off and attached to the the smaller door of the cremator. The handles are removed from the coffin, and the coffin is lifted up and sent on it’s final journey. There are no actual flames inside the cremator, and the extreme heat created by gas reduces the bodies to just a little ash in a few hours.
Any pieces of metal from hip replacements, plates and screws in legs, and the like are removed from the ashes, and the remainder placed in a box for collection by the family. This jar contains the remains of Stew Woolley Sheep.
Our group was assured that the dearly departed are always treated with dignity, and needs of the families are paramount at such a sad time. Everyone came away with heads full of facts and figures, and a much better understanding of what actually happens in such a place.
After lunch it was time for a little culture, and we visited the Mahara Gallery in Waikanae to see an exhibition of Frances Hodgkins paintings. Not just her own paintings, as we found out, but also some of those painted by her sister and father.
Although Frances Hodgkins is a world renown artist, the two of us personally are not great fans of her style. So we were surprised to see that she painted portraits before moving overseas, and these early paintings were much more to our taste. “The Black Scarf” was painted in 1913 while the artist was staying at Ohinemutu. It is the last known painting Frances Hodgkins did before departing for Europe.
Our very interesting day concluded with afternoon tea at Jan and John’s home. John took the men down to see his allotment, then over to the Menz Shed which is very handily sited in the grounds of their retirement village. Thanks Jan, for a great day out.