Simon Ferrar will be opening his first natural burial ground, Clandon Wood, in May this year — after months of painstaking research. He writes here about the lessons he has learned from loss.
I was moved to write the following, firstly as a response to a blog post but more importantly, while thinking of a friend who was killed, very recently in an accident.
His family situation was very similar to mine, a wife, adult children, siblings and a close family unit.
He did not know that he would not return home again that day.
Was he prepared or his family prepared for when he didn’t? I don’t know for sure but, looking at my situation and that of most of us, the answer is probably a most definite “No.”
It has caused me to reflect on the first real tragedy of my life in 1999 when my mum was diagnosed with what turned out to be an exceedingly aggressive cancer in her lungs. She declined treatment so that she could enjoy as natural quality of life as the disease would allow.
I was with her at her diagnosis and I was with her when she died.
The time in between was filled with anger, rage, sadness and tears.
We talked and talked, not just about her imminent death and all of the ensuing practicalities when it did finally happen, but about things we had never talked about before.
We spoke of her childhood and mine. We talked about my dad, who died when I was nine and who I never really knew. And we talked about grown-up stuff and how mistakes and misjudgements on both our parts had impacted on each of us through the years. And then we forgave each other.
Nothing bad had ever happened between me and mum, just emotional misunderstandings that were never conciously realised or aired at the right time.
But nevertheless, we forgave each other.
Purposely and out loud.
And there was nothing left in that room apart from pure love and contentment.
And so to the point of this reflection.
Why does it need such acute pain to say the things we need to say?
My mum and I had the ‘luxury’ of three months to say everything that needed to be said and come to an understanding of each other.
I was with her as she gasped her last breath and I closed her eyes after.
Thirteen years on, I sill bathe in the beauty of that peace between us in those last weeks.
So, a generation on and nothing changes. The usual daily strife in my own family generally goes unresolved as we all go about our busy lives.
And I have forgone the profound lesson that I learned with my own mum.
I need to tell each member of my family what they mean to me because one day, probably when we least expect it, one of us won’t come home.
That beauty and peace should be part of us every day; or do we really have to go through the pain of losing someone before we experience that exquisite awareness?
I know the answer; I just need to do something about it.
Thank you Gerry, you were a gentleman in life and because of your death, you have made these thoughts real.
This post was first published here.
Find Clandon Wood here.