Thursday 19 May 2016

The Show Goes On. Rest, Dom, Rest

Dawn breaks on the first day of eternity

Fr Dominic Rolls, our youngest brother, at last resting.  White roses on his coffin.
The dawn broke today, as it always does.  I woke as I always do, listening to the birds outside beginning to sing, and watching, as I always do, the light coming in through my window.  But this morning I did not wake thinking about the funeral, as I had done over the last few weeks, because Dom had at last spent his first night next to Mum under the ground.  He seems to have gone home, not come home, but gone home.  Wherever Mum went, he has probably gone too.  I like to think that she came to collect him in the hospice room in Edinburgh, telling him that it was over now, it was time to come and rest forever with her and all the other souls that had gone before, in a place so wonderful, so amazing, so full of love and light, that he would laugh as he arrived, and thank her for bringing him here.  I like to think that he scarcely thought of the room he had left, the people in the corridor talking about him, the people everywhere in their homes, their work, their churches, praying for him with sadness.I like to think that he was so delighted and happy to be free of all the things that held him trapped, like his cancer, that he threw up his hands with joy and relief, and followed the angels (and Mum) into the arms of their God.

Yesterday and the day before, Father Dominic was honoured and prayed for in style.  He lay overnight in his beloved parish church of St Jospeh's in Dorking for a vigil mass before leaving the next day to his funeral mass at Worth Abbey.  My mother had seventeen priests on the tiny altar of her most precious church in Petworth, West Sussex.  That, we thought, was fab.  Mother, we thought, you have made it.  Dominic was one of those priests, and we were all so proud of the way he spoke about our mother.

Yesterday, at Worth, at Dominic's own funeral, there were one hundred and twenty priests, a Bishop and a Cardinal.  From his joyful place of light and laughter somewhere in another dimension, I like to think that Dom turned round and came back a little closer to all of us to see how wonderful this celebration of his life was.  The hymns, the readings and the location was planned, Dom did all that.  But what was unplanned was the outpouring of love, gratitude, respect and sadness from those that spoke during the service.  I hope Dom was listening.  "Ha ha," I can hear him saying as he and mum watched holding hands and laughing, "only seventeen priests? I win!"

Mum and Dom. Ha ha, I win!
This morning was the first of many mornings with Dom laid to rest, with honour, with tears and with love.  Dom has eternity now to contemplate, Mum has already been doing it for about eight months, so perhaps, they will set something up together ready for us, the rest of the family when we join them. (We need a break now, so I think we won't be joining you any time soon, if it's all the same to you xx).

The A Graceful Dying One Woman Show.

It was never part of the deal to be putting on a one woman show about dying while attending the death of one of my brothers, and helping to arrange his funeral.  That was never part of the deal at all.

A Graceful Dying was a long time forming in my mind, and I went up for a few days with Dom in Edinburgh to talk about it with him.  If he understood what I wanted to do, then it would be fine.  Dom was wise and thoughtful.  He told me to be authentic and to follow my heart.  And then, because he was Dom, he recorded a tiny piece for me, so that he would be in the show himself.

And now, the A Graceful Dying One Woman Show is nearly ready to be seen.  I took Dom's advice and have followed my heart. The show is about how we die, and really, about how I might do it.  I have no idea, when my time comes, what I will think or feel, and no idea at all where it will be.  All I know is I don't want to go yet.  No, not at all.  But if I do have to go, at least I will have tried to think about it.

I am very lucky to be working with my dear old friend Tasha Yarker, who I call the boss.  She is directing me, and has been able to edit the script with intelligence and vigour. I presented Tasha with a whole book to work with at first, it was so long and complicated.  But now, we have everything that I want to say, the stories I want to tell, the images, the films and the music in a show that makes sense to me, that is authentic and has totally followed my heart.

A Graceful Dying will make you think.  It is gentle, but honest.  There is humour, sadness, reality and resolution.  I hope you will think about your life as well as your death, I hope you will be very glad you came to see it.

Nushi, "Cancer Chic", from the A Graceful Death Exhibition

A Graceful Dying One Woman Show

30 May to 5 June 2016, 4.30pm

Sweet Dukebox Theatre, Waterloo Street, Brighton

 “I don’t know how to die.  I am watching 

you to see how you do it.  In the end, we just have to live”

Antonia Rolls believes that unless we look at how we may die, we can’t appreciate life. This year she is performing the powerful and uplifting A Graceful Dying One Woman Show as part of the 2016 Brighton Fringe Festival. Script editor and director is Antonia's friend of many years, Tasha Yarker, 
After seven years of working with people facing the end of life as an artist and a soul midwife Antonia has a wealth of experiences, insights and questions about the ways that people have faced dying. 
This show explores the art of dying through their stories, believing that until we are dead, we are very much alive.  
She talks about things other people don't want to talk about, and does so with honesty and humour.  Antonia is part of a powerful movement of end of life awareness and companionship with a wonderful network of colleagues and friends working in the same field, all of whom are a great support to each other.
Antonia is known to love tea and cake, and will travel miles for a proper afternoon tea with friends.  

“Very beautiful.  Thank you.  I think it’s the first time I've seen death dealt with in such a loving and fear-free way.  It’s a lesson I should have learnt when I was much, much younger”
Lizzie Ballantyne 2015

  “What a wonderful powerful day.  I am SO happy to have been here to take part and be part of the A Graceful Death exhibition and experience …Thank you so much for giving yourselves so fully. Deeply moving.”
Franky 2015

Book your ticket with the direct Sweet Venues ticket link below