31 January 2017

Death

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.

49 comments:

  1. I'm not one for funerals. I, too, have no after-life expectations. I don't believe, either. No Pearly Gates for me. When I'm gone from this life, I'll be gone.

    Cremation for me, though...simpler, in my opinion.

    No doubt I've said this before...I'm the Last of the Mohicans in my clan. When I've headed off to the Happy Stamping Ground rounding up Hiawatha there will be none to mourn my passing; and very few who will remember me.

    But that's okay. I won't know whether they will or not!

    My late brother's three (adult) kids couldn't care less whether I'm alive or dead. But that's okay, too. Perhaps if I was rich the situation would be different! lol

    My word...hmmmm...maybe either "Individual" or "Sentimentalist". I'll have to give this more thought; but either will do for now. :)

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    1. Not "Thorny" then Lee? No...I think that either "Individual" or "Sentimentalist" would suit you fine. "Cook"?

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    2. I'm not thorny, Yorkie. I just don't suffer fools easily. Actually, I don't suffer them at all! lol

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  2. It sounds as though Uncle Chubby lived a full life and managed what is denied to so many: a good quality of life at the end.
    I hope the funeral allows you all to remember and farewell him in the way that suits you.

    As for my single word description, I am many things but the identity that overshadows all others is Mum

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    1. "Mum" is a more homely word than "Mother".

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  3. "Dreamer" is wonderful. For myself, I choose "Joy" for what I sought (and often found) and what I tried to give.

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    1. That's an admirable quest Wilma. In many respects I think we are all seeking joy.
      When I was a teenager, I went out briefly with a girl called Joy.

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  4. Cremation for me too. No funeral either - if it was left to me.
    My word would be 'obstreperous'.....to my shame......

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    1. No need to be ashamed of being obstreperous Wanda. Do you think it means the same as "feisty"?

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    2. No. I know exactly what it means.

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    3. I am sure you do Wanda... or are you being obstreperous?

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    4. Probably Pud. It's my curse ��

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  5. I completely agree with you on the afterlife. We are here and then we're nowhere.

    But I'm not crazy about burial. I think I prefer the cremation route.

    I'm not sure about that one-word thing. I'll have to think about it. (Maybe "Cautious.")

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  6. The latest type of funeral is "direct cremation". The person dies, family instruct the undertakers, they immediately collect the body and whisk it off to the crematorium and it is cremated with nobody from the family present - job done! My one word "Dead"

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    1. "Dead"? That's a bit like Spike Milligan's "I told them I was feeling ill".

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    2. It is so much cheaper than the full works funeral. we arranged a 'direct disposal; last year. It cost £1,400... The ashes were scattered at a lovely ceremony in the presence of those who cared and not a zilion people who hadn't even given the departed a thought in many years. I have since learned that they can be even cheaper than that but at the time we didn't know that it was an option locally.

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    3. I wish they advertised bargain funeral services on TV - "This month only at Cheapo Funerals...Buy One Get One Free!"

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  7. Really? Nothing more? This is it? If I thought this is all there is I would have been out-a-here a long, long time ago. I guarantee, one NDE and you'll find pause to think differently, I think. Thus my portmanteau would be, “Ondaway.”

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    1. I have been extremely close to death on at least five occasions TJ and those experiences simply fortified my conviction that there is nothing else. Just this.

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  8. There are realistic ways to consider death. You seem to have mastered that. My marker? Bumbler!

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    1. Bumbler? - "someone who makes mistakes because of incompetence"? Are you sure about this Red? After all, you faced the far north and survived!

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    2. I did not really plan things. I bumbled into them . Fortunately things turned out well.

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  9. When I picked up my father's cremated remains I was shocked at how heavy they were! So ... dust may not be the exact word I'd use ...

    Apparently cremation uses a great deal of resources also. But I still want to be disposed of that way, since the only other option at the moment is burial and I have read Poe's poem on premature ones as well as a book (which I started by accident and finished through terror) about a man who buried victims alive. Ugh ...

    Where were we ... I'd like "kind" to be the thing I'm remembered for but I'm afraid "silly" or "wordy" might be more accurate ...

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    1. No. We'll stick with "kind" Jenny. You sound like a kind person.

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    2. And now I've forced you to be kind! Sorry!

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    3. ...or how about "Apologetic"?

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    4. Hah! That works for me :)

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  10. 1) Dilettante
    2) Factotum
    3) Polymath

    Take your pick, Mr. Pudding. All will due. Now if I could only decide where I want my ashes planted or spread. Can you help me with that, Brother?

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    1. Spread them in your lovely Colorado hills sis - the ones you can see from your kitchen. And if there's a carved stone, leave a dictionary too!

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  11. I don't want a memorial. I too am an atheist YP. But when my first husband died my son and I found a huge Yorkshire Dales rock and had a bronze plaque simply engraved to put on it. It had a quotation at the bottom, which was said by one poet about another - I know one poet was Yeats but can't remember the other. The quote was 'Earth receive an honoured guest.'

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    1. The other poet was W.H.Auden. And I must say, I love the idea of that rock and the bronze plaque. What a fine way to send him off - much more meaning than in a regimental laser-carved headstone. We are all guests just passing through.

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  12. I too am an atheist Pat but would love to be buried with a headstone because having researched both mine and other family trees I know how valuable cemeteries and their records can be.

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    1. There's no contradiction is there Derek? Dead people were buried in this country long, long before Christianity appeared on the scene.

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  13. You're right YP, I was just thinking along the lines that these days burials tend to be thought of as "Christian Burials". Unlikely to get my wish anyway because where I live the cemeteries are full up.

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    1. There's must be somewhere on The Isle of Sheppey where you can be buried? Perhaps on the reserve. If you like I will bring my shovel down there this weekend.

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  14. No where legally YP. Would love to be buried on the reserve.

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    1. They could bury you on the reserve late at night when the authorities are sleeping... but deep enough so that badgers and foxes won't dig down to find you.

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  15. This is all most interesting. I'm also an atheist and have made my wishes made for no funeral or burial service of any kind for some years now.
    I have opted for burial (in one of those cardboard coffins) rather than cremation simply because I've heard it's better for the environment. Of course I may hear differently before the actual event, so change my mind.
    As for a marker, I'd never really thought about that. Probably just boring dates of birth and death to help any future genealogists.

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    1. In woodland cemeteries people often plant a tree over the grave. I wonder what kind of tree you would pick Rozzie? Perhaps a weeping willow?

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  16. An interesting post. Death is a subject often close to my mind, as you probably know. I have just gone back to a post I wrote seven months and seven days after my husband died. (The post's title is "Seven months and seven days".)

    What happens with my body after my death is something I really couldn't care less - I won't feel anything, and certainly won't be around to observe what's going on. So, if whoever will take care of my disposal then, they are welcome to decide what they think is best, whether it will be cremation, burial or something else.

    When Steve died, it was so sudden we had never talked about what he would like to be done. But one of my first thoughts was "I'll take him to his Dad." Steve's father died when Steve was 12 years old. His body was cremated and his ashes spread in the Garden of Remembrance at a crematorium in Barnsley. This is where we went for the funeral, and Steve's cousin Rob spread the ashes at the spot Steve's Mum thought was closest to where they'd done the same with her husband's ashes so many years ago.

    For me, if there was a headstone for Steve at a cemetery, that would not be the place where I'd go to feel close to him, because he had no relation whatsoever to the cemetery. There are so many other places where we often went to, walking or cycling, both here at home and in Yorkshire. It is those places for me that hold memories of Steve, and where I feel closest to him, apart from my flat of course, which was so well cared for and decorated by him.

    My marker? Hmmm... what about Librarian?

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    1. Sorry for typos and grammatical errors. Too lazy now to delete and rewrite.

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    2. No typos or errors glared out at me. A different word on your headstone might be "Perfectionist"?!

      Thanks for sharing these extra thoughts about Steve's passing and how you feel about it all now. By the way, I have been in the crematorium grounds at Barnsley - on a sunny summer's day in April 2015 as I was rambling east of the town.

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  17. I suspect that my family's one-word for me would be "smartarse" for my mental collection of trivia. They even gave me a mug with that very title, although as two words.

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    1. PS: Your time stamp setting is an hour fast.

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    2. Well Mr Smartarse, I have no idea how to change my so-called "time stamp". I'm not friggin' Dr Who tha knows!

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.