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Dream House

Dream House |Creative structures to spend ever after in

Published:Sunday | January 23, 2022 | 12:06 AM

This ‘dream house’ tomb was built by Errol Green for his late mother.
This ‘dream house’ tomb was built by Errol Green for his late mother.
This week’s Dream House looks at a different types of abodes. Elaborate resting places like these have been constructed all across Jamaica.
This week’s Dream House looks at a different types of abodes. Elaborate resting places like these have been constructed all across Jamaica.

The burial site for the late Aston Shirley in Thompson Town, Clarendon.
The burial site for the late Aston Shirley in Thompson Town, Clarendon.
Barry Rattray
Barry Rattray
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Do our dreams transcend time? Yes, they do. Humans since ancient days have dreamt of creative ways and spent vast sums and time in providing dream shelters as final resting places for themselves. In fact, sheltering the dead was a much more important matter to many back then than sheltering the actual living!

People as widely isolated from each other by culture and time, like the Egyptians, Celts, Chinese, and Amerindians, all buried their important human remains with valued grave goods. In each case, the theory was largely the same – the anointed ones allowed everything that might make their situation as comfortable in the afterlife as it had been in the present one. And this included the forced provision of all their servants who were sacrificed to accompany their master or mistress on their spiritual journey.

Whether it’s the world’s most famous and magnificent tombs, like the Pyramids of Egypt, the Taj Mahal in India or the Thirteen Tombs of the Ming Dynasty in China, the elaborate mausoleums, or the stand-out graveyard ‘house’ monuments by the bereaved to the memories of their beloved deceased, one inescapable conclusion dawns on you: the relationship between architecture and death – as bizarre as that may sound.

Several architects, even here in Jamaica, have designed their own burial sites with epitaphs in the past and even today (while still being very much alive). There has been ‘a design for death’ competition for architects and designers to improve the deathcare industry (services related to the recently departed). There has also been a ‘dying’ competition, which accepted proposals of new ways of designing burial grounds (deathscapes).

Closer home, right here on the island, we see ‘dream house’ memorials with the funerary art that capture immediate attention and respect, paying not only tribute and honouring those we have said goodbye to, but also their still-living creators.

Take Funeral Director Errol Green, owner of Exodus Funeral Service in Annotto Bay, St Mary. He has built several of these proud structures, including one for his dear mother. Hers was borne out of his special love for her. The burial took everything he had. But this is the house he would have built for her when alive if he could have afforded it.

As we continue to build bridges to another dimension, I am mindful of what Green shared, of how we need to do a better job of maintaining and beautifying our cemeteries. How we memorialise those who have left this world has to be treated with the utmost dignity and sensitivity.

When we start to respect the dead more, we will begin to respect the living that much more.

- Barry Rattray is a dream house designer and builder. Email feedback to barry-rattray@hotmail.com and lifestyle@gleanerjm.com.