I don’t intend this to be a sad post although I will be mentioning the taboo subject of death so look away now if you don’t fancy it!
When you get to a certain age it’s a pretty safe bet that you will have had a fair bit of experience of loss in your life and attended one or two funerals. By and large I think funerals are a very good thing and I want mine to be heaps of fun but preferably after I’ve conked out with a glass of gin in hand following an uproarious 100th birthday party where I’ve danced the night away!
But seriously, it is important to mark events in our lives, happy and sad, and all cultures do it. I am a great fan of tombstones and was recently thinking about my father’s memorial stone, which always makes me smile.
My Dad died many years ago; he had cancer so we had some time to plan for his demise and subsequent funeral arrangements. After a cremation in Bath we took his ashes back to Edinburgh where he was buried in a family grave. We were able to add a small stone for him which prompted much discussion! We didn’t have a lot of space but we particularly wanted to put something that would give a flavour of what my Dad was like.
Eventually we settled on his titles, son, father, grandfather and occupation. It didn’t seem enough. But then we remembered he had a little phrase he always used when shaking your hand (well, he always used it if he liked you.)
He would say:
‘Here’s my hand, here’s my heart‘.
And so we put that on his stone. We’d also noticed that several of the surrounding headstones had little carvings on which added to the information about the deceased, like a motorbike, or a house or plane. So we pondered long on what to put on my Dad’s. It began as joke but somehow stuck and eventually we had a perfect pint of beer, in a straight glass, with a head (but still a full pint) etched to one side of the stone. The stonemeason was rather bemused and said he had never been asked for that before, lilies being more usual. However, he obliging carved out a pint of John Smith’s and now my father’s grave raises a smile from many who pass by it and always a hefty grin from us and happy memories, which surely is what tombstones should be about?
What phrase best sums you up? If you had to choose an image for yourself what would you choose?
I have a much longer (and serious) article on Coping with Loss and Bereavement which you can read here.
PS My Dad died on January 21st 1998 after some very tender loving care at Dorothy House hospice. My daughter is running the Bath Half Marathon to raise money for the hospice so if you’d like to follow her progress, here’s the link to her fundraising page.
Posted on January 13th, 2012 by Jane