Saying Goodbye

Dear Readers, some of you have been following the story of my parents’ last years since way back in 2016, when my Mum was taken into hospital while she was staying with me in London, so it seems appropriate to bring you with me to closing of the chapter. Dad was cremated yesterday in the crematorium at Weymouth, on a glorious spring day. This is not an occasion that you want to be late for, especially when there will only be two mourners actually at the event (my brother was self-isolating with a fever), and so we were there an hour early. It was so peaceful in the crematorium grounds: the only sounds were the cawing of crows in the cypresses, and ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ which was chosen by the previous party as their music for saying goodbye. How idiosyncratic these choices are! I don’t know what anyone who didn’t know Dad would have made of ours (of which more later).


You would not have to ask from which direction the prevailing wind blows in the cemetery – every tree, every sapling, is leaning decidedly to the left. I idly wonder how some of them are standing up at all. Trees have a lot of sense, though: they ‘know’ that they need to adapt or get blown over, and so they sacrifice perfection for survival. This may be a metaphor.

I watch as the coffin bearing the next person to be cremated is driven to the door, and then the hearse drives away. At 1.30 it returns with another coffin. This one contains the earthly remains of my dear old dad. Of course, he isn’t actually here: that much was clear within a few moments of his death. The carer and I both went to the window to open it, as if to let his spirit out, just as I’d felt compelled to do when Mum died.

I had to get up and take a quick walk to regain a vestige of composure, and I found myself under those cypresses. People who are grieving are strange, otherworldly creatures who do peculiar things, and so it was that I found myself touching the trunk of one tree, almost as if I expected it to be breathing. It took me back to when I lay my hand on my Dad’s stilled chest, but at the same time it reminded me of when he was alive, this big, solid, reliable man, as dependable as a great tree. And I found myself taking off my shoes and standing in the grass, toes among the daisies, as if rooting down into the soil. Such a feeling of peace came over me, as if I was being held, and maybe I was, though by what or who I cannot say.

And then it was time. There are so many restrictions around the rites for the dead at the moment – no more than ten people, hand sanitizer as standard, no hugging people from other households. And yet, as we walked in to Concerto de Aranjuez (Adagio), to honour Dad’s love of Spain (and also the way that he used to whistle along with less than complete accuracy), I could feel all the people watching the webcast from home – Dad’s sisters and their families, some of my friends, and of course my brother – and it was comforting in a way that I hadn’t expected. The vicar’s eulogy managed to catch the essence of Dad in all his variety. And when we walked back out into the sunshine, to the sound of the theme tune to ‘Last of the Summer Wine‘, I felt as if we had done the best that we could for Dad, for now. 

Some of the peace of the day stayed with me as we started on the long trek home. It may not last, but then nothing does. My brother and I have often coped with the last few years by using humour, and this week we were remarking that we were orphans, but not the wide-eyed, sad Dickensian variety. Which kindly benefactor will adopt us, I mused, since we are grey-haired (and getting increasingly more so), old and a little on the podgy side? A friend of mine had the best answer:

‘Nature seems to be your nearest kindly benefactor’ she said.

And so it is.

22 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye

  1. Anne

    This has touched me in a way you had no way of knowing: my 94 year old aunt died in Dorchester last week and is to be cremated in Weymouth. Naturally we cannot be there, and so it has been especially good for me to see these pictures.

    1. Bug Woman

      Oh Anne, what a small world it is – I remember you mentioning your aunt previously, so sorry that she’s passed away. Will you be able to watch a webcast of the ceremony? A lot of people who watched Dad’s cremation mentioned that that had been very helpful. I’m sure the ceremony will be wonderful, they are lovely at the crematorium. I don’t have any pictures of the actual building, but it looks like an Italian villa, with one of those campanile!

  2. penthompson

    Dear Bugwoman , I have followed you since that weekend course we enjoyed with the Gentle Author . And our stories have had some parallels with the final years of our final parents ,ending in a steady decline, loss of functions and deaths. Thank you for so openly sharing your story and weaving it into your love of and solace from nature. All the best, Pen

    1. Bug Woman

      Thank you, Pen: I am so sorry that you’ve also been going through such loss. Nothing really prepares us for the loss of our parents, even though we rationally understand that it’s going to happen. Thank you for all your support, right from the start of my blogging adventure. One of these days I’ll have to come to Brighton and take you out for lunch!

  3. Alittlebitoutoffocus

    It’s funny that you should have mentioned becoming orphans, my sister, brother and I said the same thing when our dad passed away – also after our mum. And, Last of the Summer Wine was a great choice. I’m sure he’s now at peace and you will have happy memories of him and your mum wherever you go. Take care.

    1. Bug Woman

      Thanks, Mike. ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ is actually rather lovely in its own right, a cut above most theme tunes! My brother did suggest the theme from the Benny Hill Show, but I wasn’t sure that that quite set the right tone 🙂

      1. Alittlebitoutoffocus

        Last of the Summer Wine every time. My Dad’s favourite tune was Take My Breath Away by Berlin – which seemed quite appropriate in the end! He would always stop whatever he was doing or any conversation to listen to that song whenever it came on Viking FM 2 (which was quite often).

      2. Bug Woman

        Oh the temptation to have Take My Breath Away would have been almost overwhelming if it had been one of Dad’s favourites, he’d have chortled away at the joke….

  4. Rosalind Atkins

    What a lovely, heartfelt send off! Very well done for carrying it off – he would have been proud of you, I’m sure xx

      1. Rosalind Atkins

        I forgot to say – I had a real jolt on seeing your Dad’s full name. My much-loved Grandad, already certainly in his 60s when I was born, was a Thomas Reginald. His elder son, my father, 42 when I arrived, was consequently Reginald Thomas. My husband unfortunately declined to continue the tradition, so my little Reggie became Robin.

      2. Bug Woman

        Ah, you don’t see many Reginalds these days, though Thomas has become very trendy. My Dad knew about three different Reggies when he was working, they had to be differentiated by surname and height (i.e. Big Reg and Little Reg)….

  5. Gail

    A beautiful piece, you did your dad proud! I hope the feeling of the daisies under your feet remains and continues to give you strength and support. Take care xx

  6. gertloveday

    Fear no more the heat o’ the sun
    Nor winter’s furious rages;
    Thou thy worldly task hast done,
    Home art gone. and ta’en thy wages:
    Golden lads and girls all must,
    As chimney -sweepers, come to dust.

    May your dear father rest in peace

  7. Juliet Beth Thomas

    As sorry as I am for your loss, the peaceful image you described is very vivid and touching.

    My own father is 90 and thoughts of how I may react, should he pass before I do (one never knows), are unfortunately at the forefront. We are very close.

    Much sympathy from across the pond,

    Juliet Thomas 💜💐🌹

    1. Bug Woman

      Oh Juliet, I know how hard it is…just tell him that you love him and admire him, and thank him for what he’s done on a regular basis (I’m sure you already do). Even after Dad had dementia and didn’t know exactly who I was, he always perked up when I told him that I loved him, and what a good Dad he’d been. xxx

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