|The first image that Google produces after an image search for "death"|
I tend not to think about death very much. Of course, it is the only certainty in our lives and I know that some people are secretly quite obsessive about it. But for me it is mostly something that lurks in the background like next December or 2018. It will come in some kind of costume and there's not much I can do about it.
Tomorrow I shall attend the funeral of Shirley's Uncle Chubby. He died a few days before his eighty fifth birthday. Only last summer we visited him unexpectedly and he showed me how his vegetable garden was doing on the west bank of The River Trent. I was jealous of his black riverside sediment-enriched soil. Very different from the heavy clay soil that I have to work with here in Sheffield. But isn't that nice to think that Chubby was still living happily at home and tending his vegetables just a few months before his death? No old folks' home for him with carers rushing around and the television blasting away in the corner. He lived a full, happy life by the riverside he never left.
As an atheist, I have absolutely no expectation of any sort of existence beyond this life. To me the idea of an afterlife is absurd. I believe that the only way I will live on in any form is in the memories of my family, friends and others who knew me. In addition, I would like to think that some of my words will succeed me. In that respect, I really do need to get round to making an e-book of my poetry so it's captured for good. This was something that the now dormant Australian blogger Carol in Cairns encouraged me to do.
Nowadays, it is fashionable and co-incidentally economical for the bodies of the deceased to be disposed of through cremation. That's what happened to my mother and father and it is what will happen to Uncle Chubby's body too. But, perhaps romantically, I am drawn more towards burial. My brother Paul lies beneath the clod in a remote graveyard in County Clare, Ireland. His little plot is close to the ancient boundary wall, protecting him from Atlantic winter winds that whistle across the bog. His wife, daughter and sons can visit him there and remember him with fondness. But after a cremation all that is left is dust.
A couple of weeks ago, I visited a poet's simple grave and blogged about it here. On Philip Larkin's gravestone there was just his name, the years of his birth and death and the single word "Writer". If you were to be buried what single word would you suggest for your gravestone? A single word that somehow sums up who you were or why you were here. It might concern work, family, aspirations or character. I think I might choose - Dreamer.