A bright, warm autumnal morning back in 2016. I was driving back from The Crematorium with my Partners Ashes secured with the seatbelt to the passenger seat. A never ending torture drive. That might well have been my lowest point. That morning I had seemingly been ok until the Ashes were handed to me. Handed to me in what can only be described as a container that resembled something you would see traditional old sweets sold in. A Sweet Jar. Then the weight, it was surprisingly heavy. It wasn’t until back in the car that the reality hit home. Less than a month ago she sat in that car seat, now it was her ashes. It became such a painful memory that I had to sell that car within weeks.
Now in 2022 she is in two containers. An undertaker divided the ashes into two. One secured, wrapped with the necessary paperwork to go abroad. One in a matching unsecured container. The Sweet Jar now gone, replaced by cylinder containers like you get Malt Whiskey presented in. For 6 years they have sat on a sideboard, waiting. Now unexpectedly we are sorting a small portion out for a family member.
It was a surprisingly easy call to say YES to the family member but I can’t begin to tell you just how much I fretted over the DOING part of the process. Odd as it’s not the first time I’ve dealt with ashes. I scattered my mums ashes over her family grave. A potential emotional meltdown saved by the presence of a cute squirrel simultaneously digging away on the very next grave. Mum would have loved the humour in that. Rather than buckets of tears, SMILES.
This time around this felt a million miles from smiles. I was really uneasy and unnerved. What was the appropriate way to do this. Do I say prayers. Do I explain to the ashes what I’m doing. Do I wear gloves and a mask. What do I use to do this. I felt clueless and lost. Prayers and I talked her through what I was doing. I could almost here her voice telling me off for doing this all wrong. I carefully unscrewed the lid off one of the containers. What can only be described as a ‘ring-pull’ was next. I had a crazy thought, what happens if it goes pop like one of those party poppers, ashes going everywhere. I wasn’t smiling, I was panicking. No pop, no disaster this time.
Then the next issue. This bit might be gross. How do I get some of the ashes out. In the end I opted for an old spoon. A spoon my partner used to stir her tea with. It’s been unused in 6 years. And here’s the thing. I can’t just put it in the sink and wash the spoon now. That can’t be right. So it’s going to sit next to the ashes until called upon again.
I can’t spill a single grain. Not one. I have never been more careful. What on Earth happens if I get this bit wrong. Unbelievably my nerve held and my inner muppet stayed hidden. Well almost hidden….
I searched the house and every draw for a container or small bag to put the ashes in. All I could find was a food freezer bag. Too big and surely inappropriate. I can’t put my partner in a bag with the following instructions emblazoned across the front.
Consume within one month of freezing.
Once defrosted consume within one day.
Just NO. Here was the next best option. Please don’t be too hard on me. The only other clear, small plastic bags I could find were a few unopened mini lego sets that came in the Star Wars Advent Calendar. Yes I carefully opened two, removed the lego and used them. A Stormtrooper and a droid now without bag. So one bag inside of the other, ashes inside. Sealed tight with cello tape. I’m shaking me head at the thought.
Carefully wrapped up, the ashes headed on a journey. Several hundred miles. By POST. Yes I put a stamp on and posted them . Was that wrong. What is the protocol. I did check if it was legal. I had fears that they would be impounded. But in the UK you can post up to 50g of human or animal ashes. Thankfully they arrived safely and within 24 hours.
So after 6 years, the process has started. It might take some time to complete but in a strange way it feels reassuring that a very small start has been made. Next time I will be better prepared. HOPEFULLY……