A couple of days after my mother’s funeral, I was back at the family home to link up with relatives to help with a little ritual that my Dad wanted to perform. We were all heading up to a local church graveyard where my maternal grandmother was buried. My Dad had decided he wanted to lay a large floral cross on the grave. This was as an alternative to what he had actually planned. It seems that one of my Mother’s wishes, was for her ashes to be scattered on to her Mother’s grave. However, when my Dad asked for permission to do this, he was given a polite refusal. Sadly it was something that the Church didn’t allow.
So, with the flowery tribute duly settled into the boot of my car, we all set off for the churchyard. The whole thing was done with little ceremony and, once the cross was laid in place, my Dad seemed to be in a bit of a hurry to get back home. When we got back most of us settled into the lounge while Dad went off to the kitchen to brew up. It was while he was out of the room that one of my sisters leaned conspiratorially towards me and said, “Of course you know what he did with the ashes don’t you?” “No” I said, “I’ve no idea”. To which she replied, “He sprinkled them in and around the flowers on that cross”.
The look of horror on my face must have been priceless. As my mind started to race over the events of the last hour, my Dad dropping the tribute into the boot, me slamming the lid down, the car rocking as everyone climbed in, the drive there over several speed bumps. I quietly excused myself and slipped out to the Hall cupboard where I knew Mother kept the vacuum cleaner. I was thankful that Mr Dyson had had the foresight to fit his cleaners with quite a long length of mains cable. Opening the boot my fear was confirmed by the sight of a light layer of grey dust in the shape of a cross, gently settled on the floor. I was very grateful for Mr Dyson’s patented twin vortex vacuum action and, the job done, I slipped the cleaner back into the hall cupboard and joined everyone back in the lounge in time for the tea and cakes.
Driving home I reflected on what had happened, and allowed myself a small sense of satisfaction at a job quickly and discreetly executed. Until that is, a cold sense of dread swept over me. I hadn’t emptied the cleaner before I used it! I had a real face in palm of hand moment as I imagined my Mother’s ashes, comfortably settled in with the everyday miniscule detritus of the family home. I pictured an assortment of toenails, body hairs, dead insects and arachnids, cobwebs, skin cells and biscuit crumbs that had become the final resting place of at least some small part of my Mother. My Mother, who had always been quite fastidious about the way she looked and dressed. My Mother, who I watched with no small sense of pride, win a glamorous grandmother competition at a local village fete! Was now sitting at the bottom of a clear plastic goblet amongst all the sordid grime of everyday life.
My mental self flagellation at what I had done didn’t last too long though. You see, Mum had a very dark, sometimes macabre sense of humour. So I eventually comforted myself with the thought that she would have seen the funny side of what had happened; and probably have laughed even harder at my intense discomfort about the whole episode.