Belfast Telegraph

Belfast artist Ash Reynolds who documented cancer battle through work laid to rest in 'living wake box'

Family and friends carry the ‘Living Wake Box’ at the funeral of artist Aisling Reynolds
Family and friends carry the ‘Living Wake Box’ at the funeral of artist Aisling Reynolds
Aisling Reynolds
The funeral of artist Aisling Reynolds at the Vault Studios in Belfast
Some of the colourful cakes
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

A Belfast artist who helped to design her own colourful 'living wake box' in place of a traditional coffin was laid to rest yesterday.

Aisling 'Ash' Reynolds was born in Co Meath and had lived in Belfast for the last 30 years, working as a freelance community artist.

The mother-of-one passed away on December 28 at the Northern Ireland Hospice after she was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in 2018.

Family and friends wore colourful clothes at a celebration of her life yesterday at the Vault Studios in Belfast, carrying the living wake box they helped her make before a private committal was held.

The funeral notice described her as the much-loved partner of James and devoted mother of Robin.

Forced to stop working after her diagnosis, Ms Reynolds chose to document her cancer journey through art and involving those closest to her.

The work led to her first solo exhibition entitled Platelets which included 24 canvasses she painted during chemotherapy, a selection of body images taken on her phone and the living wake box.

The bright alternative to a coffin was decorated by loved ones during sessions at her art studio.

In an interview with the Irish News in November, she said it had helped people to open up about the difficult topic of terminal illness.

"I was having lots of visitors coming to my home but some of my friends just couldn't look me in the eye and were too afraid to talk to me about death or accept I was sick and going to die. It's still such a taboo subject," she said at the time.

"I wanted to start the conversation, to get people talking about it. We're all going to die. So I came up with the idea of the 'wake box' painting sessions.

"I've never liked coffins, so a friend made a box for me and I invited friends, in groups of eight or 10, to come along and paint flowers on the box. This meant I could see them in a creative way and those who found it difficult to look me in the eye could have something else to focus on."

Donations to NI Hospice have been requested in lieu of flowers.

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