Friday, 24 January 2014

24/01/14 Breathe

Well that was exciting. 

18/12/13 Moved into house.
25/12/13 Christmas
11/01/14 Sale of boat finalised
12/01/14 Still living out of boxes
21/01/14 Bought a desk from Ikea. Assembled by half past midnight
22/01/14 Started research for Assignment 3.

That's the abbreviated history anyway. I haven't yet had any further feedback on the length of Assignment 2. This is a problem because if you discuss six purposes, then how they apply to a good funeral, then how they apply to a bad funeral, it leaves you with 50 words per purpose / funeral with little room for anything else.

Now I need to expand the shifting mood of a ceremony into 1500 words with reference to a funeral I have been to. The last suitable funeral I went to was about five years ago and I have pretty much forgotten it. Oh well.

When my mother died, one day I was talking to her, a week later she had vanished from history. After the house was sold, nothing remained to testify that she had ever existed. The only trace was in my not very reliable memory and a few old photos. Each day the crem shows a list of names of those who were cremated on that day. Big deal. What about the rest of the year? If I want, I can go to the spot where her ashes were scattered, but what's the point? It's just a bit of grass. There's nothing there. I can stay at home and look at grass.
Photos kindly supplied by Geograph, and may be reused subject to this creative commons usage licence.

So I went on-line and looked at what real people had to say. I went to a forum for bereaved mothers.
When my daughter Hope died I was afraid to go but I was drawn to her grave because I couldn't let go. A friend set me up with a friend who lost her daughter to a fire. She helped me with going on her birthday and I release balloons with messages from my friends and family. Then we come home and have a birthday cake and I donate toys in her honor. I also go alone and read the first book I ever bought for her. It helps me because now my kids who never got to know their sister also feel connected and I don't feel quiet (sic) so lonely. Also know it takes time !
I'll spare you the ten or so others like this one.

The point is - we are human beings, not productivity engines. We can't just flick a mental switch and carry on. Caring for our loved ones is what marks us out as humans, and we can't just stop because they are inconveniently dead. But love cannot exist in a vacuum; it has to be expressed. There has to be a ritual. This can be visiting a grave and talking to the person buried there, or leaving flowers or toys. It may make a mess but it is not 'wrong'. This is being human at its best.

A written marker testifies to the physical existence of a person, when all other traces are gone. It is like the teleporting telephones in The Matrix. It is a touchstone, a point of contact. In the same way that you need the right number, so you need a marker with the right name or it will be meaningless.

A memorial transcends time. Future generations will journey across the world to visit the gravestone of a long dead ancestor. Bath Abbey receives a regular trickle of visitors seeking records of their ancestors' burials. As a society, we belittle these things at our great peril.

We need permanent anchor points that connect us to our loved ones and ancestors. The form these take is a matter for our sensitivity and ingenuity.

See also:

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