This weekend will involve a trip to Scotland, mum's native land and one of the places I consider to be my home. It'll be a flying visit, a quick turnaround. We had to do this a few weeks ago, for the funeral of one of my uncles (mum's brother-in-law) who also fell to cancer. It has been a truly horrible year for our family, with one branch losing three loved ones within the space of a few weeks, and our branch coming frighteningly close to the same. While things are not quite on the scale of Job's nightmare one can certainly sympathise with his forthright outburst when the trial became too much to bear.
Now the time has come to take another, painful step. Mum never specified what to do with her remains. And that's fair enough. When we die, what happens to the shell we used to inhabit is irrelevant. It's not as if we need it any more. When it's my turn, feel free to flush me down the toilet if it solves a problem. But that problem will have to be solved; when a person is cremated, something has to be done with the ashes.
My dad did ask more than once for input on what to do, but I had no preference and feel that, as she was his wife, it is his decision to make. He consulted similarly with my sister. In the end, he decided to do what is probably the most sensible option: to take her home. The family have arranged that she can be interred with my Granda, her dad, who died just under a decade ago. They were very close in life and I'm sure that to be symbolically reunited in this way would please them both.
And rationally, it is just symbolic. They're both gone. But that doesn't stop it hurting. Letting go always does. I properly broke down overnight, for the first time in a few weeks. The church weekend we've just had was an emotional strain, as we initially chose to worship at Brunswick primarily to be closer to my parents; we got to know people by joining them at the previous weekend away. Today, I've requested that her Facebook account be memorialised, something which required me to find a verifiable “proof of death” to point them to. While this was aided by my mum's popularity and importance to a lot of people, it turns out it's quite hard seeing it in the announcements section of a national publication. Clicking the button to submit the request is something I've been putting off for nearly six months, but I asked my dad's permission at the weekend. On Saturday, we will say a final farewell as we let go of what's left of her body.
Unlike the phoenix, we won't rise again from our ashes. Our time on Earth is brief and we have a duty to use it well. That implies living in the present, not the past. Unlike much of the physical pain I live with, which I ignore at my peril, this emotional pain is something to be pushed through. If I'm still writing blog posts like this in another six months, then that's how it is. But mum made it clear she wanted us not to forget her, but not to wallow either. She wanted us to move on. And I learned long ago that her wishes are another thing not to be ignored. After his annus horribilis, Job lived to 140. If he didn't let go, that would have been a long, miserable life. I'm not sure what I'd do with 22,000 assorted livestock but mum would probably have used them to stage some elaborate prank. I guess that's something to work on.