The Cosmic Procession of Farewell, a whimsical, colourful and unique outdoor funeral procession and festive burial ceremony was born out of the need to address death and the layers of grief and loss that have been part and parcel of the COVID pandemic.
Actor, Clown, Spoken-Word artist and Artistic Director of Le Trunk Collectif, Lynne Cooper mobilized her community and with a band of artists – musicians, dancers, storytellers, painters and puppeteers - and a ritualist, created a procession with a coffin that wended its way through three Outremont parks (Beaubien, Parc Outremont and the îlot St-Viateur) this fall, offering a space for people to feel comfortable about death and to grieve, individually and collectively.
“So many people are grieving. I might be grieving my father and the person next to me is grieving a relationship or the loss of a friendship, all the different things that we have lost in the last 2 years in the pandemic. We have lost so much. I needed to create a show and rituals where I felt safe to put that grief and that darkness so that we could transform it into light and become comfortable with the idea of death because that’s one common humanity that we all hold.”
Losing a loved one during COVD has been incredibly hard for people. People have not been able to say goodbye. They have often not had the comfort of friends and family or access to rituals such as funerals. Lynne, like many others, was far away from her father when he died in Chile in the midst of the pandemic. The awareness of profound disconnection and isolation due to COVID inspired Lynne to draw the community together and honor those who had passed away. Lynne believes that creating a space to hold grief will help prevent anxiety and mental health breakdowns.
“My father passed away in September 2020 and everything shut down. My work shut down, we were all shut in, and I did not know where to place this grief- I could not go home to say goodbye, I could not go home to the funeral, I still have not been able to go home. My father was my biggest fan. He would always grab a plane and come and see all my shows so I felt it was logical to create a show not only in memory of him but to honor the grief that we all hold… My father’s death gave me a voice to be able to talk about grieving and loss so that is what this show is about.”
Lynne’s own experience growing up in South and Central America helped inform and infuse this work in novel ways – weaving together rituals, music and traditions from many countries and religions such as rituals based on the Latin-American celebrations of Día de los Muertos and the Celtic celebration of Sawhain.
The response to The Cosmic Procession of Farewell has been very moving. This excerpt from a message sent by a participant demonstrates the value of art and ritual in helping people express, share and heal their pain.
“…I want to thank you for your Cortege. Like you, my father passed away in 2020. He lived in Belgium and I was stuck here, far, far away, and I couldn’t go because of the travel restrictions and closed borders. He died alone and I have been carrying so much pain for this whole time and trying to process his passing all by myself. In one of the rituals I felt a big explosion inside me that I couldn’t keep inside anymore. I tried and tried to keep it in but it flew out of me. I felt ashamed to cry in public but someone grabbed me in her arms and allowed me to cry on her shoulder. I just wanted you to know that your poems and celebration helped me heal. I felt less alone. Thank you for sharing and thank you for your Cortege. I have a tendency to think that my pain is private and only belongs to me so I hide out which is probably the worst thing to do but you proved to me that very personal pain can be shared and is so universal at the same time, so thank you.”
Lynne Cooper founded the theatre company, Le Trunk Collectif in 2006 as a platform for addressing pressing social issues such as immigration, human trafficking, environmental concerns, aging, death and grief. Visual work (paintings, puppets) from The Cosmic Procession of Farewell can now be viewed.
Le Trunk Collectif plans on turning The Cosmic Procession of Farewell into an annual event. In the meantime, stay tuned to the company's Facebook page for the video.