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.