Yesterday was a long day (I was away from home for a good 17 hours). An important day; a strange day; a needed day.
I arrived early at the cemetery, knowing that this would give me time to adjust from travelling mode to, well whatever mode it was. Daughter? Minister? Both? I'm still not quite sure!
Soon afterwards the gravedigger arrived, he had other plots to prepare, so he too had arrived early. We got chatting as ministers and cemetery workers do, and it turned out he's worked in that cemetery as a grave-digger since 1990 - so it's almost certain that he had dug my Dad's grave, as a young man, with a spade because little JCB-type diggers weren't common practice back then. Certainly when I pointed out the nearby grave of one my classmates who had died tragically and very young, he recalled digging that one. I quite like the idea that he dug my Dad's grave and now, also by hand, had dug the space for my Mum's cremated remains.
The FD arrived early too, carrying a very smart, plain silver carrier bag inside which was the basket-work casket. I explained it was just me, that I was happy to place the casket myself and thanked her for all they had done for Mum. I felt a bit mean, she probably had almost an hour's drive each way for five minutes, but hse seemed OK and was consumately professional.
So that was that, then. A few minutes earlier than the official time, I read some scripture, said some words of committal and prayed a blessing, then I popped some flowers in the vase . The FD came over and back-filled the hole, and I placed a potted rose bush in front of the headstone (which has yet to up altered or replaced). I thanked him and he left.
The sun shone, it was a warm, late-summer afternoon. I stood looking out across this once familiar place, and thought (briefly) of those I had known who now lay here.
At the end of the road leading to the cemetery stands the house where I lived from 9 - 18. Once a council house, it's now long since in private ownership, but apart from the windows and the fence at the side, little seems to have changed. The hedge at the front - which I spent many hours cutting as a teenager - is still there. The apple tree remains, and forsythia bush my Dad planted is still growing next to the gate.
It was a strange day - a long way to go for something that took at most five minutes. It was an important day - I needed to complete this process, fulfilling Mum's last request.
I have no idea if it did whatever I might have hoped or wanted it to do, because honestly I don't know what what I hoped or wanted, beyond a bit of closure or completeness. Perhaps I wanted some time to be daughter not minister - but the two are not entirely separable after all.
I am really grateful to the long standing friends I visted afterwards for a cup of tea and a natter before catching my homebound train.
Before I left, I took this photo of me with the house where I spent those years in the background.
At the time we moved there it was pretty much a 'sink' area, it seems to be remain an intriguing mix of rough-and-ready and aspirational, along with a number of retirement bungalows, and all of it just down from the place where most residents will one day take their final rest.
August 8th 1972 we moved into that house (on the right in the photo), 15th August 2018 I said farewell for what is almost certainly the last time.
As I said on social media, "The girl from Westfield Road hasn't done too bad".
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.
The Lord gives, the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.