Not only was today Barry’s birthday, today was significant for another reason too. Today, Barry’s ashes were placed in the local cemetery.
This is something I tried to do in January of this year, but after making the initial enquiries I quickly backed off, shaking my head and holding my wounded heart. I wasn’t able to go through with it. It was too soon. My councillor and the woman I dealt with, who would make the arrangements on my behalf, both said that I would know when the right time arrived. That time was in early May when I woke up one morning and told Gary that I was ready to start the procedure and, this time, see it through to completion.
Yesterday, I felt fine. There were no signs of nerves or sadness. I wanted Barry’s ashes placed and that would be happening today. Why would I be affected by something that I wanted to happen? Why indeed.
This morning I was also fine. I rose and prepared myself for the “event”. I made the morning cup of tea and woke Gary. All was normal. I did a few chores and then went to wake Daniel, who quickly informed me that he was ill and didn’t want to attend. Daniel has been complaining of a bad sore throat for several days and he had gone to bed really early last night (8.30pm), which is most unusual for him. I knew he wasn’t well and seeing as it was pouring with rain, I felt it was probably not in his best interest to attend anyway. Although I wouldn’t have tried to stop him if he did want to accompany us…ill or not. Still everything was normal. I showered and dressed and then I turned my attention to getting things ready.
And that’s when it hit me.
The container holding Barry’s ashes has been sitting on his bed since the day we brought it home. Today, I had to remove it from that location. It was more difficult than I imagined.
It sounds stupid, but I found myself feeling as if I had to explain the ashes placement to Barry. I sat on his bed and told him that we were not getting rid of him. How can I do that when he has claimed a section of my heart? I told him that I believed if he could “hang out” anywhere, he certainly wouldn’t hang out at the cemetery. I could understand if he felt drawn to his bedroom, and that is fine (although none of us have ever felt his presence in the bedroom since he passed away). I told him that he discarded his mortal body and it was up to me to ensure the remains were placed safely. It has always been important to me that Barry have a final resting place, with a plaque announcing to the world that he existed. I realise that it may not be important to him, but I’m the one left to deal with the grief and sort out his affairs, and this action is a step in my journey to finding peace in my heart where Barry is concerned.
I held back the tears welling in my eyes. I didn’t want to cry. I sat with the container on my lap and suddenly related this to his birth. It’s hard to hold back tears when you are looking at a grey container and thinking of the newborn baby I would have been holding twenty years ago. At this moment, I looked around Barry’s bedroom and discovered a card sitting on the bedside table. It was something I’d never seen before so I picked it up and read the neat words written by Gary on the inside:
To Barry on your 20th birthday.
Just to let you know that we miss you every day. Life is just not the same anymore.
We love you, Barry, and we believe the gap you have left in our hearts will one day be filled again when we see you next.
Love from Mum, Daniel and Gary
There’s no way I could stop them…the tears flowed in torrents.
Time was passing too quickly and we would soon have to leave the house. I wasn’t ready. I continued telling Barry that we did indeed love him and that I prayed he would understand why I was moving his ashes. All the while the rational part of me tried to tell me that Barry really wouldn’t care. He would know how we feel and I didn’t have to explain anything to him. But the words were just as much for me as they were for Barry.
I removed the plaque from the container (which was originally from the coffin). Minutes later, red eyed, we left the house and drove the short distance to the cemetery. The rain poured down around us just as it had on the day of the funeral and the first anniversary.
At the cemetery, the rain stopped and Gary asked if he could hold the container for just a moment. Hearing his sobs made me cry harder. Then, out of the car, Gary and I stood together as a man readied Barry’s niche. I held the container close, not caring that tears rolled down my face. I had reason to cry and I doubt anyone would disagree with me there. The man turned to me and asked if I wanted to place the ashes into the niche. I turned to Gary and asked him to do this for me. Instantly, Gary froze and shook his head, but seconds later he gathered the strength needed to do it. Later he told me he feared he would fall apart, but knew instantly that it was an honour to be asked and he would regret it if he didn’t.
The container placed; we stood staring at it for a few moments. No one spoke. We didn’t want to make a big deal out of the placement. We had already had a funeral service and didn’t feel it was necessary to repeat any of that today. After a few moments, the man asked if we were ready for him to cover the niche with the plaque. We stood crying openly as the container disappeared from sight forever.
If you are family or a friend of Barry’s, please feel free to visit his final resting place at Kingswood Cemetery. Oh, that makes it sound so absolute and definite and I guess…it is.
The placing of Barry’s ashes was something I wanted to do. It was really important to me for many reasons that I’ve already explained. However, that doesn’t mean it was easy. That doesn’t mean that I’m not grieving the loss of another part of my son. I’m feeling sad today. Gary told his councillor (who was once my councillor; I stopped seeing her about a month ago) about today (he had an appointment this afternoon) and she asked if we felt “better” now that it has been done. No, I can’t say I feel better. Perhaps tomorrow will be better. Then again, perhaps tomorrow we’ll have regrets. Who can tell where the road ahead will take us? We can only deal with the here and now.