Dear Readers, today we interred the ashes of my Dad with my Mum. We had been hoping to give Dad a proper send-off, but the pandemic put paid to gathering people together from different parts of the country, especially when they’re elderly and vulnerable themselves. So on this glorious autumn day a handful of us gathered to reunite Dad with the love of his life.
I love the spot where Mum and Dad’s ashes have been laid to rest – they are next to a cherry tree and a crab apple, and in the spring the field next door will be full of sheep with their new lambs.
And it is a peaceful spot, with the last of the house martins flying over before they head south for the winter, and the jackdaws chuckling as they play in the wind.
I’d chosen three poems. One was Dylan Thomas’s ‘Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night’, because Dad fought every step of the way when he was dying. Mum, I think, had had enough and was ready to go, but Dad was not, and that was what made sitting with him during that last day and night so difficult for me. But then, after someone suggested that I try giving him a head massage, he quietened and past away so gently and peacefully, like thistledown carried on a gentle breeze.
The second poem was ‘The Dead’ by Billy Collins. I hadn’t come across it before, and I suppose some might find it sentimental, but I found the idea of Mum and Dad in a glass-bottomed boat somehow very soothing.
while we are putting on our shoes or making a sandwich,
they are looking down through the glass bottom boats of heaven
as they row themselves slowly through eternity.
and when we lie down in a field or on a couch,
drugged perhaps by the hum of a long afternoon,
they think we are looking back at them,
which makes them lift their oars and fall silent
and wait, like parents, for us to close our eyes.
What can I say about my Dad? He could spin a yarn, or speak the simple truth. He could tell a rioja from a pinot grigio even after he got dementia, and he never knowingly hurt a woman. He was a gentleman and a mischievous elf of a man. He was beating me at Pointless a year ago, and yet he’d forgotten who I was. He was so optimistic that he thought the nursing home was a cruise ship, and yet he was often prepared to think the worst of people. He would wait years to get his revenge and he never forgot a perceived slight, and yet he could be generous and forgiving. His life centred around my Mum and trying to make her happy, and now at last their physical remains, at least, are together. I would love to believe that in some world they are whole again, and that Dad is tunelessly whistling along to Julio Iglesias while Mum looks fondly up from some complicated crocheted doily that she’s making. But at the very least they are both out of the physical pain that beset both of them in their last years and that was no small solace to me today.
Goodbye Dad. Travel well, my friend. Say hello to Mum for me.