Ashes to Ashes Part 2

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……

Chair

Chair with a view.

Look behind and it’s not too bad as well.

Maybe a good place to spread some ashes one day. Back a few years I remember standing here. Standing here in the rain. An overcast thinking walk had suddenly turned wet. A sky not dissimilar to this one.

What was I thinking back then.

Why me. Why take Hawklad’s mum and leave me. She would have been the better single parent. Sometimes I still do. After loss, how many other utterly confused souls have had similar thoughts. Many I guess. But in the end, all we can do is walk those paths allocated to us, do the best we can. The rest will sort itself out in the end.

Ashes to ashes part 1

It’s coming up to six years now. Six years since THAT YEAR. 2016. When EVERYTHING changed. I quickly scattered my mums ashes but we still have Hawklad’s mums ashes in the back room. On a mantelpiece overlooking the garden and fields beyond. There is no rush and to be fair, we have gone through a pandemic. We kinda assumed that at some some stage in the future we would get round to scatter them.

Then out of the blue.

One of her family have asked for a little portion of the ashes to spread. It’s odd I assumed it would be tough to say yes. For Hawklad, for me. Yet it wasn’t. Within seconds we both went – THATS FINE.

That’s progress. Life has moved on for both of us. The next question is where that leads.

But back to the ASHES, just maybe the hard part is still to come. The doing bit. We shall find out in a few hours.

Swiss Sunday

It’s a few minutes past midnight here in England. A muppet dad is fighting to put on duvet covers. In this case, a ‘George from Peppa Pig’ cover. The duvet cover is winning….. What makes it worse is that it’s for my bed. Hawklad wouldn’t dream of sleeping under that these teenage days. But it’s still a good cover so, waste not want not. Plus as it’s just me under that duvet, who will ever know.

So can you keep a secret……

Anyway I have given up the cover battle for a few moments and I’m thinking 2015.

I wouldn’t have got away with that themed cover back in 2015. Not a chance. Back in 2015 it was also our last holiday we had as a family of three. Seven days in beautiful Switzerland.

The next time we go back to The Alps things will be very different and not just what’s allowable in terms of bed furnishings. I had hoped that 2022 might have been return year but maybe things are still against a trip this year but you ever know. But wow, I wish I was there right now. I wish I was back in Switzerland.

Poetry woes

We are trying to stick to the school class timetable, starting and finishing lessons at the same time as his classmates. We figured that was a decent way of bringing structure to the school at home week. We also thought that if and when Hawklad returns to school then at least he would be use to working the full timetable.

In practice it is difficult when some lessons are posted late ( hours late, even days late and yes sometimes never posted).

This day started with an English lesson. POETRY. Poems on a theme.

Do not stand at my grave and cry…..

They are waiting for me somewhere beyond Eden Rock…..

I had not thought it would be like this…..

Revising poems about loss and grief. Learning about a poet who had lost his father when he was a child and was now grieving the loss of his mum. You get the picture. Wonderful poetry from the likes of Frye and Causley.

Yes loss and grief are powerful themes but there are other subjects to go for. Safer subjects for children. What about those children who have lost loved ones. Is it fair on them. Should an English lesson and potentially exams bring tears of sadness. If kids want to look at grief poetry then they can but let it be a free choice, when they are ready and never let it be forced on them. Some might say I’m being overprotective of Hawklad but we all deal with loss in our own way, especially important when a child loses his mum when he is only 8. At home we still carefully try to filter out movies that bring sadness to Hawklad. That’s OUR choice.

I’m not frustrated with the school or teacher. They are told what poems they have to teach. Surely when those in charge put the national curriculum together, is it too much to ask that they do this sensitively. Consider what impact some of the coursework could have on some of the pupils. Is that too much to ask.

Daffodils 2

So Yorkshire has enjoyed the briefest of Springs. We are now heading back into one last crack of Winter. Even mention of an outside chance of the white stuff.

So before the poor things are battered into submission let’s have one more Daffodil Fest.

The American Psychiatric Association have now officially recognised Prolonged Grief Disorder as a mental health condition. Intense grief that lasts for more than 1 year that disrupts a persons mental wellbeing and health.

Ok.

Surely much shorter, very intense grief can send people into terrifyingly dark places. Those places will have a profound lasting health effect. That will have just as much impact on a persons wellbeing than the new Official Prolonged version. Grief is GRIEF, regardless of how long it lasts a person.

I just hope that finally GRIEF gets the support it desperately needs. Too many suffer in silence. What support there is poorly funded and badly over subscribed. Even when it comes to children the support is just not there. Hawklad’s Doctor put him on the waiting list for Specialist Grief Counselling. That was back in 2016 and he is still working his way up the list….. How many parents are trying to help their grieving child when they are also suffering as well.

Grief may or may not be a separate mental health condition but it definitely has a direct impact on a persons mental health. Looking back the only support I received was a 12 page pamphlet handed out by the Hospice. For too many that is simply not enough. It wasn’t for me. Hawklad didn’t even get that…… That’s an 8 year old who has just lost his mum. That can’t be right.

Things can change

It’s not far from here that Hawklad wants to scatter some of his mums ashes. Yes 6 years and they are still sat on a cabinet in the back room. A view through the window over the garden and the fields beyond.

It will happen in its own time.

It will happen when it’s right for Hawklad.

We could see the place where we want to scatter his mum but we couldn’t walk there. Not this time. A place which his mum loved to visit. This time we couldn’t follow in her footsteps. Two rather angry bodyguards blocked the way.

Maybe next time.

Things can change.

Soon it’s going to be Mothers Day here in the UK. A couple of weeks of nonstop adverts which are almost impossible to avoid. How many kids have lost there mum and have to go through that. But this year we have a first. A supermarket that we order food from has just sent this email.

This is a start. It’s a small step but a welcome step.

Poems

Who are EWE looking at…..

Hawklad had an English assessment to do at home today.

Compare how poets present attitudes towards a parent in ‘Follower’ and one other poem from the ‘Love and Relationship’ anthology.

One poem was provided the other poem had to be recalled from memory, the class has been trying to memorise quotes from the other poems. 45 minutes to answer this one…..

Hawklad was suitably impressed…..

“Dad that was 44 minutes too long to answer that….”

“Dad don’t you think the poets would have hoped people would read all of their poems, rather than just trying to memorise little bits of their work like parrots”

“If I’m going to memorise some prose, then it’s going to be Shakespeare”

“I’m as bad at poetry as you are Dad….”

He did his best and that all that counts.

I was suitably not impressed with the question as well. I just wish schools and exam boards just thought a bit more about the questions they are setting. A question about parents and poetry seems relatively innocuous but of the thousands of pupils answering it, how many have lost a parent. One of the poems the class had to examine stresses the importance of a mother to a child. How’s that going to make kids like Hawklad feel. How many don’t have a parents at all. How many haven’t seen a parent in years. How many are going through hell because of their parents. This question could be really distressing for some pupils. Surely that’s not fair, surely that’s not right.

Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday here in the UK and it feels like it’s time to take another virtual trip to one of the worlds most picturesque, picture perfect countries. It’s time for a bit of Switzerland. Definitely a place for big dreams. We need those big dreams more than ever.

Nearly 7 years since our last visit. That’s far too long. it wasn’t supposed to be that long. We had plans to visit in 2016, during the October school holiday. The three of us plus Hawklad’s Granny, but the world changed over just 6 weeks.

Now in 2022, Hawklad and his old muppet dad are starting to make tentative plans for a return to Switzerland. The first window of opportunity might be this October. That is dependent on a pandemic, on Hawklad’s anxieties. Let’s see what happens. But big dreams can come true. They really can.

Golden

A golden sunset produces stunning tree shades.

I’ve talked about how my bereavement journey has moved on. I’m not stood next to that permanently locked door anymore. Life has to be lived. That’s something I didn’t think I would ever say in the early days. But approaching 6 years after the world changed and now I can.

But what about Hawklad.

Losing a mum is devastating. Losing a mum at 8 years old is beyond words. I did what I could but there is a limit to what anyone can do in those circumstances. If he wanted to talk, we talked. If he wanted to forget, then I shielded him. Understandably he found it tough to talk about his mum. He found it distressing to hear references to death in TV shows and Movies. Professional Grief counselling has been slashed by Government cuts, so he is still waiting…. So we muddled through.

Roll on 6 years. He still finds movie references to family death tough, so we still try to avoid. But here’s the thing. Now he can openly talk about his mum. He asks lots of questions about his mum. He wants to learn more about her. He smiles and laughs at the memories. He is getting there.

We are getting there.