I’m not sure whether to be happy or sad. Even after thinking about it for a week I’m not sure.
Last Sunday we laid my parents’ ashes to rest in a Lancashire churchyard. On the day I was glad that the weather was good, my knee held up and my 91-year-old uncle was well enough to be there. Since then, I have been thinking, and suffering mixed feelings.
They wanted their ashes to be together, and as they were married over sixty years that seemed fair enough. When I agreed to it, I hadn’t really assessed all the implications. My sister, for instance, has been looking after mum’s ashes for the last five years, which has always felt slightly uncomfortable. Dad died about 18 months ago and we have been waiting for a convenient time to meet, allowing for the various problems with lockdown. We were going to meet a couple of weeks ago but both my uncle and I were ill, so we postponed it.
They are in the churchyard in Chatburn. It’s next to the school where they met, and it’s the church where they married in 1952. The vicar officiated, and it felt serious enough, without being overly formal. This was particularly true when the vicar found the second set of ashes to be significantly heavier than the first and my uncle remarked, “That’ll be our Jim.”
One day I should research the family history of the churchyard. I know I have at least three great grandparents buried there, two aunts, a cousin and now two parents. I’m sure there are more but I have to admit that I have never researched it or kept track of the fate of modern ashes.
It was a great day from the point of weather and views and the sense of a task completed. However, it was also sad, and raised some questions in my mind about the wisdom of delaying such things. I wouldn’t mind being buried with Julia, but I’m now wondering how fair it is on the people who have to carry out these wishes, as it does prolong the sadness. In the week leading up to the ceremony I did feel a lot of the same feelings that I had done in the week before the funerals.
On balance, I’m glad we did it the way we did, but times change and I’m going to have to think things through regarding my own ashes.
Julia’s dad had the right idea, I think. The neighbours planted a cherry tree as a present for Julia’s mum when she retired from volunteering in the village. One night after she died, Julia’s dad buried her ashes under the tree. Later, after several moves, he died, and the family was able to sneak out under cover of darkness and bury his ashes under the same tree. They are together, but there wasn’t the element of delayed sorrow I had with mum and dad.
Meanwhile, if you are ever in Chatburn, and you might be one day if you ever feel the urge to visit Pendle Hill, do call at the Brown Cow for lunch. I had the best steak pudding I’ve ever had and my sister’s cheese and onion pie looked excellent.
They are now buried in the walled off section at the bottom of the churchyard and are, as the vicar said, part of the history of the village. If you look across the Ribble Valley the hills you see in the distance are the Forest of Bowland. If you could see over the ridge you would see Slaidburn, a village we have already visited in the blog.
What a sad but satisfying thing to have done at last. I am sure you are already looking back on the day as a good day and so worth the trouble you all took. I know that most people have no wish to cause trouble to their relatives after their death but as you have seen in your own family, carrying out these final requests can bring such comfort to the bereaved. It has been difficult for you because of the restrictions brought about by the pandemic and by your own recent poor health. If you and Julia wish to be buried together I am sure that will be fine. My parents had a double plot put aside for their ashes in the churchyard. My father’s ashes were interred a couple of months after he died in 2010 and when my mother’s turn comes she will be placed next to him. The views from the churchyard at Chatburn look wonderful and peaceful.
The area seems a little familiar to me, not just from your posts but I also follow another blogger from that part of the world. https://bowlandclimber.com/2021/09/27/round-and-round-and-up-and-down-i-go-again/
There are a few bloggers in the area, though this one was new to me.
Yes, it is seeming better as time passes. Things often do. 🙂
The churchyard is a beautiful place. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. My brother had kept a little of my father’s ashes for three years. In 2019, he, my sister-in-law and mother went to Varanasi to immerse them in river Ganga. They could not go earlier because of the pandemic. Regards.
It is good that they were able to get there at last. It is important to do things properly, even if it does bring back sad memories.
There is often much sadness that goes on with burial, delayed or not. A dear relative died in early August this year, and her ashes were shipped back across country to be buried with her dead son, who was only 7 when he died, many, many years ago.
The right place can mean a lot to people.
It seems like a good way to finalise things even though it did take a long time. Nothing is as it should be at the moment which makes things more difficult and doesn’t help.
On a different note, we used to play a march called Slaidburn when I played second trombone in our town band
Second trombone? Is there no end to your musical talent?
Yes, although Chatburn is quite rural it was in the middle of a disease hotspot thanks to neighbouring towns, which made us more wary.
My musical talents are spread very thinly to say the least.
Yes, it must have been hard to go through a second ‘funeral’.
I’ve told my daughter to chuck my body in a hole somewhere and get on with her life. Sadly, I doubt the authorities would be too pleased with this idea.
It also brings the value of your property down . . . 🙂
I think it would 😊
As another antique daler used to say when the subject came up – you never hear of the council leaving a body in the gutter. Someone will attend to it.
He had a colostomy bag and, consequently, a laid back attitude. 🙂
I see 😊
I know exactly what you mean. Many years ago, a dear friend died in April. How I mourned her passing. For various reasons, her family waited until August to have a memorial service. I had started to recover from the extreme grief I was feeling, and the August service brought it back. The waiting was right for her family, just as waiting was right for your family. Still…
I knew an antique dealer who left his body to science in return for paying for his funeral nearly a year later. It was the most harrowing funeral I’ve ever been part of. Not just the delay but the thought of what was in the coffin. His wife was almost on the pint of collapse. He was happy he had saved money but she would rather have paid the price and done the decent thing at the time of his dath.
Phew! What a story.
It was dreadful, and let’s face it, I’m not usually sensitive. 🙂
Thinking of you, both the sadness and the practical.💗
🙂 Thank you.
Bitter sweet, of course. Good that it is done
Yes, it was a bit sad but feels good to know it was done well.
Sounds like things turned out perfect for your parents. I don’t think the waiting is a big deal.