Photo exhibition

In a culture where death is variously perceived as being too morbid, too difficult or too disturbing to mention, how do we remember and pay our respects to the dead?

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To absent friends’ – a traditional wedding toast.  Spoken during the meal, in the midst of a celebration of love, life and laughter, drink poised… the perfect time to pause and think of friends and family we wish could be there. (Photo: Sandy Patterson)
Remembrance Sunday is an important institution.  A reminder of the gravity of war, and one day each year when remembering lost loved ones is not just permitted, but encouraged. (Photo: Michael Ryan)
Will there come a time in our lives when the relationships we have with the dead outnumber the relationships we have with the living?  Do we do old people a disservice by discouraging them from talking about their dead friends?  Does a person’s death lessen the meaning of the relationship we have with them?  (Photo: Michael Ryan)
Social media is playing an emerging role.  As a generation grow up posting their lives on Facebook and Twitter, perhaps it is inevitable that they become a place where stories of loss are shared.  In a society where many live far from family and childhood friends, we are spontaneously finding new ways to express our need for community.
54,000 people die each year in Scotland.  224,000 people are bereaved each year.  Death, dying and bereavement are a significant part of everyone’s life experience, yet something that most of us rarely speak about in company.  In a culture where death is variously perceived as being too morbid, too difficult or too disturbing to mention, how do we remember and pay our respects to the dead?  (Photo: Emily Erskine)
Many Scottish traditions relating to the expression of loss and remembrance have faded over time.  The pre-Christian festival of Samhain, when the boundaries between the physical and spiritual worlds were thought to be thin, was celebrated on 1st November.  People set places at the dinner table to welcome back the souls of dead family members.  Later came the Christian festival of All Souls Day, or the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed.   Now, we are more likely to celebrate Halloween, revelling in the spooky and the mysterious, without that element of remembrance.  (Photo: Rebecca Patterson)
In Mexico, they still hold a huge holiday each year – Mexican Day of the Dead – dedicated to remembering family and friends who have died.  Graves are tidied and decorated, special meals are prepared, and people remember, respect and celebrate those who have died.  (Photo: Mayra Crowe)
The weather is damper here, the skies are greyer, and the people perhaps more reserved.  But what if we could create a Scottish version of the Mexican Day of the Dead? Less colourful?  Perhaps.  Less flamboyant?  Definitely.  Less relevant?  No.  (Photo: Sean Cartwright)
Scotland has a rich heritage of storytelling, especially as winter approaches and the nights draw in.  What if we were to revive Scottish customs of remembrance that have lain dormant for so long in Samhain and All Souls Day? Could we recreate a meaningful opportunity for storytelling and remembrance in the Scottish tradition? (Photo: Michael Ryan)
For a few days each year we can give ourselves the license to talk about our memories of those who have died.  Share photo albums with your grandchildren…  (Photo: Rebecca Patterson)
… Invite your friends round to try a recipe your Gran used to make… (Photo: Claire Webster Saaramets)
…Light a candle for the child you lost. (Photo: Rebecca Patterson)
There might be some tears, there might be some laughter.  But for all of us it would be a chance to share and to listen, without discomfort or embarrassment.  (Photo: Michael Ryan)
Let us establish a new festival of storytelling and remembrance this November.  We can revive old traditions and create new ones – an opportunity for us all, in our own unique way, to raise a toast  - ‘to absent friends’.  (Photo: Rebecca Patterson)

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