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Exit strategy: why I’ll be saying no to a funeral

Exit strategy: why I’ll be saying no to a funeral

Journalism Yvonne Roberts comments on findings from Theos report ‘Love, Grief and Hope’ for The Guardian. 03/12/2023

In the 1970s, Professor Ronald A Howard of Stanford University worked out a unit of risk in death which he called a micromort. So, an operation with a general anaesthetic clocks up 10 micromorts, while running a marathon comes in more modestly at seven. How many micromorts there are in a 12–month run of attendances at funerals he didn’t calculate. However, from personal experience, metaphorically and practically, it turns the Grim Reaper into an uncomfortably close companion that does give pause for reflection about the best way that I can bow out.

For me, there will be no “joyful” tangerine–themed celebration; no eulogy from a vicar struggling hard to paint a portrait of a person they never met; no trek to a woodland glade in a cardboard box; no final opportunity for friends and relatives to collectively say goodbye. With luck, I may occasionally pop back in the shape of a memory, flaws erased, personality polished to perfection by the passage of time.

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Image by The Guardian

Madeleine Pennington

Madeleine Pennington

Madeleine is Head of Research at Theos. She holds a doctorate in theology from the University of Oxford, and previously worked as a research scholar at a retreat and education centre in Philadelphia. She is the author of ‘The Christian Quaker: George Keith and the Keithian Controversy’ (Brill: 2019), ‘Quakers, Christ and the Enlightenment’ (OUP, 2021), ‘The Church and Social Cohesion: Connecting Communities and Serving People’ (Theos, 2020), and ‘Cohesive Societies: Faith and Belief’ (British Academy, 2020). Outside of Theos, she sits on the Quaker Committee for Christian and Interfaith Relations.

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Posted 3 December 2023


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