My father died in hospital, with very little warning. At that time, I didn’t live in the area, so had no local knowledge or contacts – but I had to arrange everything as well as look after mum who was obviously very upset. I coped with it all, of course I did, but it meant that I couldn’t grieve properly myself. The only time I almost gave way was when I went into the Funeral Home to collect his ashes.
I wasn’t prepared for how much the ashes would weigh. It’s a sizable amount. Nor was I prepared for just how much I’d feel that dad’s personality was still attached to them. I stood there with the container in my arms and began to repeat in a monotone: I didn’t realise they’d be so heavy! I didn’t realise they’d be so heavy! I knew I was on the verge of losing control. A protective inner voice told me: get out of here now! So I fled into the street and started to walk. I knew I couldn’t get on the bus or even into a taxi. In the end I carried them all the way home. It ain’t heavy, it’s my dad, as the song sort of goes.
On the way home, along the sea front, I chatted to the ashes. I said, look, here’s the sea; look, there’s a dog enjoying himself on the beach. Things I knew dad would’ve enjoyed. I felt better when, later on, a friend told me that, after she’d collected her mother’s ashes, she’d taken them round her mother’s favourite shop.
It’s over a month since mum’s funeral. We’ve been looking for a suitable place to scatter or inter her ashes but haven’t yet settled on a suitable place. However, I didn’t think I could leave her ashes in the Funeral Home for much longer, so I made an appointment to collect them. The night before I felt terribly anxious. I spent the time psyching myself up; preparing myself for the fact that they’d weigh a lot and – because, at the moment, I can’t walk quite so well as I could 10 years ago – I would need to get a taxi home.
But what would I do with the ashes once they were here? I really didn’t know. Mum was happy to keep dad’s ashes with her until the day we scattered them in the sea – I like to think we gave him a back-to-front Viking funeral. But it always made me feel uncomfortable to have them close by.
With all this on my mind, I went into the Funeral Parlour. I was met by a very kindly employee, whom I’d never met before. Had I chosen a ‘scattering tube’? he asked. No, I hadn’t. He brought me a selection and I chose one. A sensitive and perceptive man, he said: you don’t have to take them if you’re not ready. I nearly burst into tears. But then very few people ever see through my competent façade. I’m not ready! I admitted. Will it be all right to wait another couple of weeks? He assured me it would be. I blurted out: collecting dad’s ashes nearly broke me. Now I’m terrified I won’t be able to cope when I collect mum’s.
I left the place not weighed down by the ashes but feeling light with relief. I know it’s only a temporary respite but, hopefully, I will feel stronger in my spirit in a week or two.
Later that evening I spoke to my cousin. Her mum is in a Nursing Home and they are planning to sell the house which is standing empty. She told me my Aunt still has the ashes of her own father; her own sister; my cousin’s father – and the cat. And Cousin has to decide what to do with all of them. So in the scale of things, my problem is relatively minor!