Unique Undertakings

Above: Laura Manson's hearse [still from 'The Undertaker' by Green Renaissance Films - see below]

july 29, 2023
Unique Undertakings
Death in Print: Goodbye: For Times of Sadness & Loss by Melanie G Mason, Meet: Funeral director, celebrant and death cafe co-host Laura Manson, Death on Screen: The Undertaker by Green Renaissance Films
Listen to Episode 4 on the following podcast platforms
Or, if you've already listened to the show, scroll down for more info and links . . .
Goodbye by Melanie G Mason
Photo by Jacob,_(1961_%E2%80%93_2006).jpg#/media/File:Richard_Carlson,_(1961_–_2006).jpg
Goodbye: For Times of Sadness & Loss features a collection of images taken by photographer Melanie G Mason. The photographs were selected from the 8,000 she took during her travels around the world back in 2006. When she returned home to Aotearoa, she decided to group the photographs by colour rather than country. The images featured in Goodbye have been selected from her 'white album', which is imbued with what Melanie describes as a ‘quiet serenity’. (Meanwhile, photos from her ‘red album’ became a companion book titled Thank You.)

In Goodbye, which was published back in 2012 but is as striking and relevant today as it was then, Melanie has matched her photographs with her favourite song lyrics, poetry and prose — the result is a curated selection of words and images designed to offer comfort and insight during times of sadness and loss.

Poetic threads of Melanie's own journey weave through the pages, inviting us to feel our own sorrows more deeply. This book is a beautiful keepsake for anyone, but a particular touchstone for someone who is feeling sad and in need of heartfelt comfort.

Melanie, of course, is also better known as Melanie Mayell, the host of Christchurch’s Death Café and founder of the biennial conference Death Matters NZ, and she was a guest on Deathwalker’s Guide to Life in Season 2.
'All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind is part of ourselves.'
- Anatole France (in Goodbye: For Times of Sadness & Loss)
Meet Laura Manson

Above: Sacha Horton-Hoogerwerf [photo by Emma Tree]

In episode 4 of Deathwalker's Guide to Life Season 3, I speak with funeral director, celebrant and death cafe co-host, Laura Manson. Together, we consider why each death is a unique undertaking and explore the power of ceremony and ritual.

In 2015, Laura planned and lead a funeral service for grandmother.

'Although I was in grief,' she says, 'I realised the huge emotional value planning her family-led service had for me. It was a much different experience than when I had lost other loved ones; my involvement gave me a sense of empowerment, completion and facilitated healthy grief. I felt that Grandma had a funeral that was 100% what she wanted, and that honoured her and her relationships.'

This got Laura thinking, maybe she could help other families to have the same experience. In doing so, she became the first funeral director in Golden Bay in more than 80 years.

The other impetus for becoming a death walker was her own mortality reminder, when at the age of 41, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

'After a successful treatment, I longed for a career change and had dreams of living life, doing meaningful work that supported my community and my family.'

Laura headed off to the Celebrant School for professional training.

Together with her husband Mark Manson, they established Matuku Funerals in East Takaka.

Laura says, 'I founded Matuku Funerals because I am passionate about supporting families to personally care for their loved ones, and to have as much, or as little, involvement as they desire in the funeral and preparation of their deceased family member.'
'My involvement gave me a sense of empowerment, completion and facilitated healthy grief.'
- Laura Manson
The Undertaker
The Undertaker is one of 27 sumptuous films made by South African filmmakers, Green Renaissance, that explore the subject of death.

Green Renaissance are Justine and Michael, two passionate creatives on a journey to share positive stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

All films are available to watch for free but you're encourage to support the filmmakers via Patreon.
The Undertaker
Watch the short film
Catch up on previous episodes
Deathwalker's Guide to Life kicked off in 2021. Catch up by browsing past episodes, which you can listen to on all the major podcast platforms.