Our Story

It’s a life thing

passingboxes is the world’s first comprehensive website dedicated to helping you deal with death. 

Click through The Open Box, our magazine, where you’ll find news, features, interviews and how-to guides on everything and anything to do with the end of life. We want to inform, guide and inspire.

Join in the conversation on our community chat forum, where you can share your stories and find support from others.

Soon you'll be able to collect, curate and pass on your most precious memories in personalised memoryboxes for family and friends. 

You’ll be able to create an updatable Will and record your wishes for the end-of-life and death, storing them in a secure Vault with all your important documents and practical information for the people you love. And you’ll be able to create and share special Obituaries that others can contribute to.

We believe that passingboxes will have a positive, life-affirming impact on society. Help us break the conversational taboo. Make things easier for yourself and the people you care about. Pass on your love.

passingboxes: because death brings meaning to life

Our story

passingboxes began in 2012 when its founder Donna McLean, a married mother of three, found herself on a flight to her critically ill father’s bedside.  The whole family thought he would die. So began the conversation about death many of us find so hard.

There were tears as well as laughter as the memories, good and bad, blossomed back into life. Dad, a typical Yorkshireman not given to sentimental display, had been quietly facing his own death, handing Donna a red folder bearing the words: After I Am Gone. A practical man, he’d thought about what his family would need to know, for his own peace of mind, his way of making things easier: accounts, passwords, contact details, all those important documents in one place. 

It also contained a trove of personal, emotional treasures for his wife and three children, in Donna’s case all the letters she’d ever written to him when she was a girl and he was away from home with the Navy. Written in the unique, beautiful handwriting she’d known all her life, she remembered that each of his letter’s to her had began, “My dearest darling daughter Donna…” Long ago she had lost hold of them, but he had held onto hers.

It was a life-changing, relationship-enhancing, gift from a dad to his eldest daughter. And that’s where the idea came from: we could all have the opportunity to collect, curate and pass on our most precious memories – our legacies –to the people we love. Pass on in a way which reflects the way we live our lives today. Her dad, meanwhile, recovered from his illness. And his red folder gets fuller every week!

 passingboxes is the red folder of today

The team

  • Donna McLean

    Founder

    Donna McLean gave up her executive job in magazines 12 years ago to raise her rowdy kids. In 2012 her dad gave her a red plastic folder named After I’m Gone, which became the inspiration behind passingboxes. She is eternally grateful to him for that revelatory day at the kitchen table. 

  • Tim Nelson

    CEO

    Tim Nelson is both a former Management Consultant and self-professed, semi-professional chef. As CEO he believes people are the most important ingredients in business - and in life. Losing his Dad last year helped to define for him the purpose of our organisation.

  • Sylvia Patterson

    Editor

    Sylvia Patterson is an award-winning journalist and author best known for her three decades’ work across the UK’s most celebrated music magazines. She was a death-contemplating teenage goth in the 1980s even before she lost her father, mother, two brothers, a nephew and a life-long friend. She finds life miraculous.

  • Ben Yarwood

    CTO

    Ben Yarwood is a former Software Engineer and Management Consultant with two decades IT experience across civil engineering, music and ecommerce. He was recently a founder and COO of Spotify-acquired music technology start-up Sonalytic. He's a passionate rugby supporter, dad and coach. He also cooks, but not as well as Tim.

  • Jennie Mitchener

    General Manager

    Jennie Mitchener is an award-winning project manager with twenty years’ experience across the media, from Grazia and Heat to The Mirror and the Pride of Britain Awards. She excels in absorbing chaos and getting things done. Often while laughing, a lot. 

  • Chris Brewer

    Head of Technology Delivery

    Chris Brewer has twenty years’ experience delivering highly complex internet and IT solutions across Telecommunications, Retail, Technology, Business and Marketing. He solves difficult problems while retaining a remarkable composure. He’s a demon on the hockey field, though.

  • Isobella Talia

    Editorial Assistant

    Isobella Talia has finally finished her English degree and is obsessed with sunflowers. She spent her teenage years scribbling dark 'poems' in the margins of her schoolbooks after her father nearly died of a rare cancer (more than once). She now writes brighter things too.