Saturday, 19 September 2009

A.D. - After Dad.

Well, where to start?
I'm back home and sitting up happily with jetlag and the cat.

Here all is well.
Yujiro got work for 2 months taking photographs of buildings for city hall records. Okaasan is piling up clothes on her sofa and scattering socks a-plenty. She is finally going to the dentist for her tooth implant problems. The cat is alive...but even thinner. The garden is a jungle. It's public holiday time in Japan and I luckily have 4 days of nothing.

And in the step-mum is getting stronger and stronger. She is talking (and the family are starting to believe it) that she'll be able to go home to live maybe in November...with a live-in carer probably. She still isn't eating by mouth, but she is so much more focused mentally and stronger. It is a strange, sad irony for my Dad. His death seems to have been the thing to push her into life.

Been a long, stressed 3 weeks. Helped enormously by step-mum's sisters, friends old and new, neighbors in the village, strangers, food....

I did stuff I never thought I could:

*  All the official, legal, financial stuff for my dad.
*  Planning the funeral.
*  Bonding with the postman who'd found dad... 
*  Trying to imagine what the dog experienced left alone 2 nights with her Master on the living room floor.

*  Viewing the body.
*  Giving the Tribute in front of a packed village church.
*  Hosting the after-funeral party and making a display of Dad's photos.
*  Scattering my dad's ashes in his garden.
*  Locking up the family home until step-mum can get back to it....
*  Leaving again for my other life here in Japan.

Staying in the house where dad died proved very hard - it was good to be there to go over all my memories of him in the incidentals and stacks of photos and things...but it was tough late at night to sleep knowing that he'd died there in the living room entrance on the carpet which was still damp after the cleaner had done her best to de-blood things....

So luckily a couple who live 2 fields away offered me dinner...and then extended that into stay-in-the-guest-room and wine at the kitchen table...I'd never met them before and I am so glad I finally have. I stayed with them 3 nights. My step-aunt from Canada stayed other nights and her jetlag and my emotional state kept the lights burning non-stop...but I finally managed to stay 2 nights alone at the house...average sleep time anywhere: 3 hours a night.

The funeral itself was beautiful. 

The sun shone. The whole village seemed to come. My step-mum came from the hospital in a wheelchair and with her nurse and was ok. It was a service of laughter and color. I wrote a Tribute to Dad and managed to read it myself, while the family roared with laughter in the right places...even the vicar made a good joke about how Dad had "appeared to listen to my sermons". He would have enjoyed the funeral. Not too much doom and gloom.

Afterwards we had tea and cake in the village hall and I made up a big table display of dad's photos...of him as a child and young photographer and of some of his pix - Churchhill, Lady Di, the Blitz in London, the Japanese surrender of Hong Kong in 1945...

And the scattering...

My step-mum said she thought the best place was under the old damson tree in the garden.
So, at sunset on Sunday I took the urn (it felt to be about 6 kg??) down the garden with a spade, a rake and a can of cider - and I scattered Dad.
Started off feeling VERY emotional. I walked around the house and garden with the urn...talking to him. Then I  cleared about 5 cm deep by 1 meter square under the tree...hard work in Cotswold soil.
I nervously opened up the urn, took out the totally inappropriate Cremation Serial Number paper, and peered in at what Dad had become. Several kilograms of white ash. No bones. In Japan family members move bones around with special I was kind of expecting some bones. But in the UK - only ash.

I scattered and covered about one third...but then my cleared area was I had to start digging again!
What started out as an emotional activity eventually became a bit of a task - clearing enough soil, deep get rid of the ashes and cover them. 
Swigs of cider from the can helped. Talking to Dad about what a fuss it was helped too.
I kept looking nervously around in case the friendly neighbors chose this moment to pass by on a dog walk and catch me there with a funeral urn, a spade and a can of cider...

Finally after 45 minutes it was done. Not so much Laid to Rest as Dug to Rest. In movies you see people poetically opening the urn and letting ashes fly into the wind over the sea...somehow a Cotswold garden with a spade isn't the same.

But I went back to the garden terrace and had a good howl. Then I put one of Dad's stone statues under the tree and planted snowdrop bulbs. And howled some more as the sun set. I called step-mum in hospital to let her know I'd done it.

Then I thankfully accepted an invitation from the Wonderful Neighbors and went recover from an officially Strange Life Experience with wine and pasta and cheese for dinner.

                                                    Dad's resting place.


  1. Wow, what an emotional time. Well done for getting through the funeral saying your bit. It must have been extremely hard. And the burying of your fathers ashes. I think I would have 'talked' to whoever too - and ditto with the cider and also the sleeping in the house. Yay,for nice neighbours, especially ones with yummy pasta and wine.

    Hope you have a relaxing silver week off - and don't have to go round picking up too many socks.

  2. Amanda,
    Just discovered your blog (thanks to Chris) and it looks like you're having a really tough time - but handling it very bravely. Hope things get better for you soon.
    Aside from your recent emotional upheaval your life in Japan sounds great.Be great to hear from you.

  3. Barry!

    Hi!!! nice to hear from you a strange place called a Blog...didn't have these when we were at Petersfield's like the whole world can have a column...

    completely on a diferent you know Literal Video Versions? You Tube? Meatloaf...Bonnie Tyler...