Saturday, 29 November 2014

Scattering ashes

We interred Henry's ashes today. It was a rather strange ceremony, and I'll write it down. These days, as everyone says, you rarely see death or anything to do with it.

Henry had died in Milton-u-Wychwood, and hadn't left specific instructions for himself, but had previously expressed a wish to be scattered where his wife, Mickey, had been many years earlier. So, we arranged that. Or rather Rob did; with some help from Mother I think. Various things turned out to be a little bit harder than you might have thought, so it wasn't until today that we (me, Rob, Mother, Nicola) could all find a day to meet, with all the preliminaries sorted: you don't just turn up and scatter ashes (I'm speaking as though my specific case was a general one; of course I've no idea if that's true or not). Incidentally even finding Mickey's plot wasn't trivial. It turns out that her real names were Mildred May (former married name Walker, nee something double-barrelled I've forgotten). They need that to find her scattering place. Once they have that, they pre-dig a hole for you about a foot across and a bit more deep, for you to "scatter" the ashes into. They charge an insane amount of money for this: cost £75; Saturdays is £80 on top of that (staff out of hours), times available 11-3pm, according to Rob's email.

That was unexpected, and to me distinctly odd: I'd expected to throw handfuls of dust into the wind, or into the grass or the flowerbeds or something; but no. Into the hole it goes. I deliberately let a little of the dust float free: he did always have a twinkle in his eye, after all. The ashes come in a scattering-device, about a foot high, indeed it would just about have fitted into the hole they'd dug. And when you pull the release handle they start to fall out of the bottom.

I guess this is all the consequence of doing it in a cemetery, and a privately run one at that. If we'd wanted to scatter them in Ashridge woods, we could have just done so.

Beckenham Cemetery is quiet and peaceful. Today, in golden late-year light, it was lovely; we went for a walk around afterwards.

I took some pix. Some were to enable us to find the spot again, should we ever need to. If you pay (quite a lot; I think more than £1k) you can have a rose planted for you, and a permanent place thus secured. Some of those plaques you see are for that. I'm not sure about the others: were they the names of roses? I reaally can't remember.
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Here's a more general view of the spot:

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All these pic are from my phone camera which is a bit rubbish; sorry. If you follow the links back to flickr, there are others in the set that show you where we were in relation to the overall layout.

But at my back I always hear
Time’s wing├Ęd chariot hurrying near

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And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.

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Thy beauty shall no more be found;
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound

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My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long-preserved virginity,

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And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust;

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The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks. I noticed when I was attending such things that many churches have a garden for their parishioners' ashes. Never thought about cost ... n.c.