Elaine, it was
On a more serious note, it felt really weird holding mum’s casket of ashes. That a once flesh and blood, living breathing person, who’d given birth to me, could fit in a casket. It weighed a ton too. But it didn’t upset me nearly as much as I thought it would. If I’m honest it intrigued me more than anything.
I invited SM to attend the scattering of the ashes, but he declined. He thought such a ceremony was far more personal and private than a funeral, and should be for close family/friends only. He’d feel like he was intruding as her barely knew her. I told him not to be such a prissy wuss, but he was adamant, so I had to respect his wishes. Still think he was being an over-decorous wuss though.
But he offered to help with my preparations. These involved weeding the boarders, clearing dead leaves and stuff from mum’s favourite alum lily pots, and cutting back a circle of turf from mum’s favourite tree. It used to be in the back garden, so dad and me transplanted it into the middle of the front garden so mum could see it every day from her chair or her bedroom porch. The lawn had grown right up to the trunk in the meantime. Here’s a picture of mum’s tree taken shortly after being moved. I call it the Singing Ringing tree. It doesn’t actually sing or ring, but I like to think that in a parallel universe it does.
Me: But you’ll mess up your dead expensive suit and coat with soil and stuff.
SM: So? That’s what dry cleaners are for. Let’s get stuck in.
I really, really liked him for that, particularly as it wasn’t even necessary. But he insisted, so I let him.
As it turned out there was more work to do than I’d originally thought. I really struggled to get the tree turf up, so SM took over while I cleared the lily pots. We then both weeded the borders and just generally tidied up the garden.
At the end of our gardening his cashmere coat wasn’t in too bad a state, but you should have seen the state of his trouser knees. His dry cleaner is going to have his work cut out for him.
My bro and SIL pitched up at 6.30pm as instructed; twilight seemed appropriate for a Scattering of the ashes, just as the sun was setting.
All four of us trouped out to the Singing Ringing tree and stood around in silence, with my bro clutching mum’s casket.
Bro: Shouldn’t somebody say a few words.
Me: I’m going to, but I’ll keep it short and sweet….. Mum we’ve bought you home, and on your birthday too. I’ve got a couple of quotes from St Matthew’s passion by either Bach or Brahms, a fave of mine, and which I think are really appropriate….. OH Bugger! I’ve forgotten them, my mind’s gone blank… no, no, wait… I’ve remembered them.
“Come, you daughters, and grieve with me”, and the next one is not entirely accurate, but the sentiment is there.
“People are like the blades of grass, they grow, they flourish, they wither, they fade away and die.” Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, and now you shall be returned to the ground. RIP mum, and happy birthday. Bro pass me the casket.
I knelt down, pushed up the sleeve of my anorak, plunged my arm into the casket, grabbed a handful of ashes and scattered then carefully around the base of the tree. My family looked a bit horrified. I was expecting mum's ashes to feel soft and fluffy even. They felt very gritty instead.
Me: Don’t be so squeamish. Besides, this is the last chance I’ll ever have to touch and hold mum. So why not?
I them started to gently mix her ashes into the soil with the small gardening fork I’d left by tree; telling her that she could now feed the tree and become part of it, so she’s still going to be looking after her garden even in death.
We trouped around the garden doing the same to the alum lilies, exchanging stories about mum, laughing and even joking. Dad looked heaven wards and told mum not to get too drunk while celebrating her birthday with St Peter.
Before we went into the back garden, I took out a white Yankee candle from one pocket, and a glass tumbler from the other one. When I tried to light it, I burnt my thumb.
SIL: Here give it to me, you have to tip it.
I then placed the candle in the soil circle round the tree; it looked really pretty.
We did much the same in the back garden. After I’d scattered her ashes around her favourite alum lily, I asked my bro if he’d like to scatter some too. He did, and had lost any squeamish about scattering mum’s ashes by hand. Likewise with dad who went next. He nearly stumbled in his eagerness to scatter them at the top of a rockery.
Me: Take it easy dad. I don’t want to be planning another funeral so soon after mum’s one.
My SIL was hanging back a bit. So I asked her if she like to scatter some too.
SIL: Is it alright if I do? It’s just that I’m not a blood relative.
Me: You dozy wombat! You’re only the mother of the only two grandchildren she has. You have as much right to scatter mum’s ashes as anyone here. Oh, that reminds me mum, your niece rang up earlier. She wants me to tell you that she loves you lots, misses you like crazy, and would love to be here today to wish you happy birthday in person but she’s stuck up in Scotland.
SIL chose the cascading plants (covered with little blue flowers when in bloom) covering one of the rockeries to scatter mum’s ashes over.
We then went back into the front garden as there was a border I’d forgotten about, and I scattered the last of mum’s ashes on it. We nattered a bit about mum, and then went our separate ways.
It wasn’t at all morbid, and I felt so much lighter in myself knowing that mum’s back home in the garden she so loved and devoted so much too.
I’ve just rang SM, and he wanted to know all about it. But I told him I was too knackered to relate it all, and to read about it on my Roses thread instead.
SM: Will do. Is the candle still alight?
Me: Hang on a mo; I’ll just go and check……………………………………………………………
Yes, it is! Give it ten minutes, then read away, and I’m then off to bed; I’m pooped.
SM: I’m not surprised. What do you want to do for your birthday on Friday?
Me: Go nightclubbing in Liverpool, and we can stay the night at my flat. You've never been there; about time you did.
SM: God help me!
ME: Is that regarding the nightclubbing, or staying at my flat?
SM: Both. But seeing as it’s your birthday… I imagine your flat to be like a student's digs.
Me: Cheeky git! Well, you'll just have to wait and see won't you? Now let me get off the blower; sleep tight and don't let the bed bugs bite. See you tomorrow