We’ve completed the final ritual. It took nearly three years because by the time we’d decided what to do, the pandemic had already arrived. But when the lockdowns came, we still hadn’t decided what to do. Mum had always expressed an interest in having a green burial or internment, so we looked on the internet and found a few sites that weren’t far from where my brother and his children live. There was one in particular that was close to Glastonbury, a place I often visit – and that mum liked. My brother went to view them but felt they were all a bit bleak and lonesome. He ‘didn’t want to leave mum there’.
I remembered she’d mentioned a local bluebell wood that she and my father had discovered not long after they moved here. I asked around and discovered there are two bluebell woods in this area, both well-known. But bluebells flower in the late spring which, for the last two years, has been a time of lockdowns and travel restrictions.
Springtime 2021, at a time when single households were allowed to mingle, a friend took me to visit one of these woodland areas. The bluebells were out and they were lovely; a literal sea of blue running through the undergrowth and lit by sunlight filtering through the tree canopy above. There was the sound of birdsong and, from the surrounding fields, the gentle bleating of sheep with their new lambs. Brother and I decided it would be a good place to take mum.
This winter has been so mild that all the spring flowers are advanced. Ones that usually open in late spring are blossoming at the same time as ones that flower in early spring. I walked through a small local wood and, sure enough, the bluebells were beginning to open much earlier than usual. I hadn’t actually heard from Brother for some time, so I rang him and asked him to come as soon as he could.
Ashes are strange things; they are ash yet they do still seem to be ensouled in some way. When we got ready to leave the house, I had the strangest feeling that mum really didn’t want to leave home. So, having explained that she couldn’t stay there any longer as we wouldn’t be staying there much longer ourselves, I walked the ashes round the house so she could say goodbye. Then we set off. The weather was dry, so the woods weren’t as muddy as they sometimes are. But because of the bluebells, they were busy with other people viewing the flowers.
Brother wanted to go to the main part. I wanted to go to the less busy part. I’d camouflaged the box that held the ashes in a large shopping bag, but I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to do the scattering without anyone noticing. In the end, Brother was right as the main area wasn’t as crowded as I’d feared and later on, we did find a lovely area that was quite private. But by that time, we’d scattered her in the other part. The place we chose was less secluded and private, as it was near a bridle path, but that meant there was more going on, more people, dogs and horses going by – which I thought mum would like.
However, finding a nice place was the easy part. The scattering wasn’t as simple as we’d expected. In fact, it descended into farce which, I believe, isn’t that unusual. First of all, I hadn’t realised how well sealed the canister was. In the end brother managed to get the lid off by using brute force, releasing puffs of ash, which was a bit alarming. At first, we were respectful. I shook some out, brother shook some out. But a big lump stayed put, seemingly stuck in the container. We slapped it, banged it on the ground, against a tree trunk, cried out in frustration and then finally, whoosh! A huge lump of my mother’s ashes splodged out, but at least it splodged out over the bluebells.
I thought: Oh mum, a difficult woman to the end! But I do feel we’ve reached some sort of closure. This actually happened three weeks ago, after which I went to Paris for two weeks. Which was wonderful, and has helped me prepare mentally for the next huge step: selling the house.