Deeply Buried Topics of Conversation…


A small portion of my sojourn here in England has been taken up with the reverent disposal of my parents’ ashes.

I say, ‘a small portion,’ because physically I’ve not done much but in essence I have had their ashes on my mind for the whole year,  somewhere hovering in the background, enlivened each time I go to mass and prayers are said for the recently departed and,

“For those whose year’s mind falls this day.”

While my parents were alive hubs and I did try, unsuccessfully, to pry clues from them as to what they wanted done with their remains.

Asking where they had laid to rest their deceased parents and other close relatives offered some insight,

“You know, I can’t remember.  Now what about that cuppa?”

They didn’t want to talk about it, add this to the list of deeply buried topics of conversation!

On the inheritance of their property I began to go through papers and was able to gather information on the whereabouts of my late family.  They were scattered at crematoria around Britain.

One record of a scattering was unsettling and later narrated by my elderly uncle; it concerned his mother.

I caught my love for cemeteries from her.  These were places where we walked, read, sat and mused, conversed, laughed and ate picnic lunches and teas.

No matter whether the consecrated grounds were large or small, derelict or well tended, when we were feeling in any kind of mood at all our default was to go to a graveyard.

At my Norman boarding school in Buckinghamshire I tended an enviable one with headstones dating back to the 11th century.  It was an intimate family plot alongside the manor house church which my grandmother and I oft times enjoyed.

Two summers ago I took my youngest to one of the seven outer London Cemeteries opened during the latter part of the 19th century to address the overcrowding in the inner city churchyards.

Nana would have loved Highgate, it was wild,


overgrown and rambled for acres.


And yes, Karl Marx is buried here!


Victorian porticoes,


and slumbering lions,


make it a perfect spot for a summer’s afternoon stroll.

When I showed the photos to my elderly uncle he told me that in his mother’s will, Nana had requested she be buried at Highgate, an entitlement from having been born in the city of London limits.

Apparently the arrangements were too complicated so he and his brother, my father, ended up cremating her and scattering her ashes in a cremtorium in High Wycombe where she died.

Thus opened up a conversation about the dilemma I found myself in not knowing what to do with my parents’ remains since they had left my brother and I with no verbal instructions, only clues that suggested they really didn’t care.

He told us of a small churchyard near to his dwelling where he would like to be buried.  At our subtle prompting he pondered out loud,

“Perhaps I could make my burial arrangements in advance?”

“Good idea,” I agreed.  My extended American family have their plots bought in the city cemetery so the idea is not new to me.

My mind was made up, my parents were going to get a memorial stone.

Not for them you understand, but for my brother and me.

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