I’ve finished the last draft of my next book. Not all the words I’ve written have made it into the next round. Instead of being in the book I’m turning my darlings into blog posts. Seems I can’t kill them after all.
You can bury me anywhere because I won’t be there
Years later, after my brother died, his wife battled grief and guilt and the despair of two young daughters who no longer had a father. Among her many concerns was that she had no idea what to do with his ashes. Her youngest daughter needed a place to lay flowers for her daddy, but my sister-in-law was too exhausted by the last years of his life and his inevitable but cruel ending to arrange it. I asked if I could help. My brother had always been the bastion of family history; doing things as they should be done, upholding traditions.
I knew our grandfather’s ashes were in the war veterans’ section of the city cemetery and was pretty sure our grandmother’s and aunt’s ashes were somewhere in the same cemetery. If there was room with them I was sure that was what my brother would have wanted, surrounded by those he felt a kinship with and a shared sense of propriety and purpose. I made an appointment at the cemetery office. They were able to find Granny but there was no record of our aunt.
I was given a map and made my way to the rose garden. One slice of a circular bed was given to our grandmother but she was on her own. I could have sworn our aunt was supposed to be there with her.
I visited my mother and asked her. Poor old Mum, brittle and thin, the disease dissolving her substance like acid. Her face fell. “I’m sorry darling. I never picked up her ashes. I was so devastated after your father died, dealing with all that needed to be done. When my sister died I couldn’t face doing it all over again.”
I rang the Hobart Cemetery again. They searched through their records. They kept unclaimed ashes for a while, in some kind of archive, but eventually they were disposed of.
“Disposed of where?” I asked.
A sheepish young man told me they were scattered out the back of the office, in a small group of trees. My aunt’s ashes were mixed with those of strangers, fertilising the trees.
I told my mother. And also told her that I was arranging to have a plaque made for Aunty Deirdre to be placed in the same rose bed as Granny. Her ashes wouldn’t be there but at least she’d have some kind of memorial. I intended to pay for it myself, even after I discovered that tiny plinths and small plaques are very expensive. Mum wouldn’t let me pay. It was the least she could do to assuage the guilt she had felt for all these years. Once my aunt’s plaque was organised we could go ahead with my brother’s.
And as for my Mum, what did she want? Her death was getting closer every day.
“Nothing darling. It doesn’t matter what you do with my ashes. I’ll be elsewhere.” She smiled, her thin face lighting up with hope and peace. She was on the way to getting her promotion.