I am going to attempt another adventure this week. A trip planned in 1991 so, I figure it is about time I got round to it, albeit it, in a different way.
But what a weird thing memory is, and, following on from the swathes of school memories, I seem to be thrashing myself out of a chrysalis of disorder into more senior moments of re-ordering my past.
I find that there are permanent furrows I have ploughed into the memory foam. I am less belligerent about them these days and even willingly nestle into acceptance and gratitude with them:
- sickness (despite 16 blood tests this week…and a flu jab)
and then the transient yet recurrent stuff:
- good choices
- bad choices
- completely off the wall choices
- learning to make my own choices
….which has led me, as it often does, to Dr Seuss…that unexpected, fountain of knowledge and his fabulous logorrhea.
“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own.
And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
“Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find, for a mind maker-upper to make up
his her mind”
Couldn’t have put it better…so off I go, in an easterly direction!
…and so we will scatter my friend/my former friend/my beloved dead friend? And…whilst the “sensible” is discussed and arranged, I ponder the unorthodox/the daft/the disrespectful/the offbeat/the quirky/the fearless which is how I remember her. How can there be so many websites dedicated to ideas surrounding the “disposal” of ashes? It’s an industry. I am torn between heartbreak/loss and thinking just how we would have cackled (there is no other word) at the possibilities.
A small sample below of those that have tickled me especially when thinking just how wrong they could all go…
• You can pour ashes into a striking piece of sculpture (if you happened to have a striking piece of sculpture to hand)
• Mix them with clay or concrete and make something. (something? hmmmm) A builder had his made into paving slabs. He said he’d been walked over all his life, he fancied more of the same when dead. (Is this for real?)
• Commission an artist to mix them with paint and create a portrait (can’t think anything other than gruesome or more akin to Grimms Fairy Tales)
• Fire them out of shotgun cartridges. Speak to a gunsmith (wonder where I find one of these?)
• Have them pressed into a vinyl record which will play your favourite music (on what?)
• Scatter them from a hot air balloon or a light aircraft (both of course readily accessible).
• Scatter them at sea (“The Viking Longboat Urn will give a send off to remember: set upon the water, set adrift and set alight. Then as the fire ebbs away the boat sinks gracefully below the water”) “gracefully” ?
• Have them made into a crystal windchime (why?)
• Have them mixed with glass and made into an ornament (“an ornament” – what kind of “ornament” would that be?)
• Keep some in a locket or a pendant. Really lovely things (really?)
• Have them made into a firework display (now we’re talking but not sure that amongst my acquaintance is a firework maker…damn!)
• Launch them into the stratosphere, where they will encircle the Earth (how? especially when neither handicrafts nor science was your thing)
• Bury them in an underwater reef (I am not sure this is permitted…is it?)
• Have them scattered from a radio-controlled helicopter (recipe for disaster but oh how perfect).
There also seems to be a dedicated vocabulary for this activity which includes such staples as “farewelling” “water soluble scattering urn” and even Trip Advisor gets in on the act with reviews on places to go/what to do…
Having already prepared my will; Power of Attorney; DNR order and Advance Decision to Refuse Treatment, it looks like I have yet more to consider…
I seemed to be bearing my load reasonably well in recent weeks…but yesterday I came tumbling down..and down…
I spent the night fitfully, as I couldn’t seem to shift acute pain, which ebbed and flowed through the small hours with no painkiller killing the pain…and when I finally got up it was as if the physical pain had awoken a whole headspace of mental pain. How on earth had I been kidding myself for 18 months that my one breasted physique was Amazonian rather than “deformed”? In a split second I was hurling my rose tinted spectacles I had been clinging onto for dear life, across the room. I suddenly saw the make believe world I had constructed to protect myself, crumble. A world where all my clothes (and me) had looked great. Suddenly I was staring at myself in the mirror and seeing every item of clothing I put on as worse than the last, all emphasising loss of every possible kind. I stood there, for what seemed like forever, tearfully acknowledging that actually I feel half the woman I was as well as half-hearted…half-baked…and that maybe that I haven’t yet faced the half of it…
Suspect this is shake-down time…now I have been through chemo, hair loss, mastectomy, betrayal three times over, retirement, divorce as well as selling and buying property and setting up my new home..it is now the moment to face it all..and it’s not pretty…
…but today have been to the gym and there is the smell of roasting lamb and garlic through the house as I am cooking for friends…and I would certainly be feeling even less than half a being without them…
I am (stoically) directing my eyes full-beam ahead, despite the obstacle course of things (legal, medical, financial, housing) I am negotiating. And, head and shoulders above all of this horse trading and waiting remains the impending death of my close friend. To say we have been “lucky” might be pushing it, but the huge upside of us both having cancer at the same time has meant we could spend more time together in the past 2 years than at any time since student days. We have been capitalising on the space we have had for a lifetime of conversations – discussing things past, present and future… She wants Dolly Parton singing “My Tennessee Home” at her funeral (perhaps not in person..but that would work too!) and we have laughed about her directing proceedings beyond the grave.
When I am not with her I am having to use every effort to avoid consulting my rear view mirror. Downsizing means a significant investment of time in sorting through both “stuff” and memories. Whilst I am not of the sentimental persuasion, I am finding that this is really tugging at more than my heartstrings re-evaluating what I thought was true about my past.
I am relieved to know that I cannot inhabit the sanguine persona (personae?) of happiness at any price, that my “husband” and “friend” have played/are playing..somehow I think that my need is to inhabit these emotions and work them through so that in time I may be able to toss them into the wind. Meantime, a 4 bedroom house, loft, cellar, shed, storage “corridor”, garden and more…require rationalising!
This is all happening a year on from when I learned that I was being left, maybe exactly the right time to physically move on and leave “it” all behind. Too many tears, too much incomprehension, too much loss, too many lies to start looking back now. I won’t be broken and my amazing flash mob supporters are there again and again and again and again making sure.