Following on from My Great Loves guest post about turning back into dust, I wanted to share our experience of interring Abi’s ashes.
Choosing a burial or cremation is a decision I really wasn’t prepared for when Abi died. I knew she’d died and that we’d have to have a funeral, but I just didn’t consider the speed at which we needed to decide which method of burial we wanted. If we chose cremation then her body could be brought home from the hospital much faster than if we wanted her buried (paperwork!).
The thought of burning her body up was beyond anything I ever imagined but worse for us was the thought of her beautiful body decaying in a grave. Not least, we had to have a discussion about how our other children would cope with our decision. Would they be upset to think of her burning or would it seem more acceptable if she was buried? It took about a day or two of debating the pros and cons of both methods, but due to the need to get her body home from the hospital and start booking the funeral, we were keen to make a decision.
So we opted for cremation. She would return to dust.
After Abi was cremated, on 27th February 2013, we took the advice of our wonderful funeral director and waited some time before we decided what to do with her ashes. At first we were pretty certain that we would scatter them on Cleeve Common, a place we liked to go for walks as a family (and have not been able to return to yet), but to our surprise, after the funeral, we found we actually didn’t want to do that at all. I found a strong desire for her to be much closer and I began to research urns as a way to keep her ashes with us at home. But again that didn’t seem right and we felt might disturb our other children. We would be forever worrying about the urn and making sure it was safe.
We settled on having her ashes interred in our local cemetery which happens to be not far from our home. The cemetery has beautiful views of the hills and also is bordered by Abi’s secondary school, the playing field where she played hockey, and our estate. It is peaceful but has the distant noise for life and children playing so we felt that Abi would always have her friends around her. It seemed the ideal place to lay her to rest. We felt we needed somewhere to go, to remember Abi, to leave flowers and notes, somewhere also for her many friends to visit now and in the future.
We met with the cemetery manager and chose a spot to plant a cherry blossom and inter Abi’s ashes. We asked for it to be angled (facing) towards our home. He set about ordering a tree and getting it planted while we spoke to the funeral director about dates.
A few weeks later I had a message on my phone from the cemetery manager to say Abi’s tree had been planted. I’d had a particularly hard day and was heading back from town. I went straight to the cemetery to see it before going home. When I arrived, the sight of the young tree with just a few blossoms on it reduced me to sobs. I could do nothing but fall on the ground and cry. She wasn’t even here yet, but it brought home the reality that this tree would be hers forever. I text my sister and she came and sat with me. We both felt closer to Abi at that moment.
So now we could go ahead with the interrment. After the large attendance at her funeral, we wanted something more intimate and felt that we wanted to say goodbye to Abi ourselves. Just mum and dad, as it was on the day she was born. We explained to our other children what we were doing and gave them the option to attend. Our daughter didn’t want to go, which we understood, but our five-year-old son wanted to come with us.
So on the sunny day in May half term, we went to the cemetery and met our local vicar and the funeral director there; these two individuals had been a significant help to us in our grief then and since. We were alone in the cemetery. It felt peaceful and calm.
The service itself would only take about 15 minutes. The reverend had prepared some words and prayers, and then the funeral director walked over to us, carrying a small casket which held the remains of Abigail. We had felt fairly okay until that point and had been chatting comfortably, but we hadn’t seen Abi since the funeral so to think her ashes were now in this box was shocking and pulled at our insides again. It was a beautiful wooden box with a brass plate on top with her name and dates of birth and death engraved onto it.
My husband and I held the box together while we said the prayers. Our tears rolled silently down our cheeks. We both didn’t want to let her go again. Our son touched the box too. He knew this was a sad time, time to say goodbye for good.
We carefully placed the box into the hole which had been dug next to the cherry blossom tree.
And that was it.
We were left alone to be with Abi and our thoughts. We took photos and each placed a small flower on to the box. I remember watching my son as he knelt by this small hole, just staring at the box. He didn’t say much but shed a few tears. I was glad he decided to come too.
Later, after we’d left, the hole was filled in and we set about ordering Abi a memorial stone. The wonderful people at her stonemasons lent us a marble pot with her name on as a temporary vase until her stone would be ready, as it takes several weeks to create and then install. We were so thankful as it meant we could leave flowers and anyone visiting knew where to find her.
In hindsight, I’m really pleased that we took our time to decide what to do with Abi’s ashes. It’s such a personal decision, and this was right for us. We are grateful we have a special place to visit to remember her. Often, we leave flowers and come back to find that bunny rabbits have eaten them, but, you know, I’m pretty sure Abi doesn’t mind!