I was then about twenty years older and still didn’t have a good, concrete suggestion or idea concerning how my parents could each have their final wishes related to burial satisfactorily fulfilled. However, with the aid of my youngest sister Jane and younger brother Kim, I began to walk my father through the initial steps of my mother’s burial arrangements, and later, armed with advice from a good friend about how to deal with my father’s wishes, I felt the entire matter could be resolved fairly easily.
And, yes, the matter was eventually resolved, far better than satisfactorily. Each parent received the burial they desired and deserved.
Fulfilling their conflicting wishes, however, turned out to be much more complicated and harder work than I imagined and would lead me to stand one day about ten years later, very tired and quite alone, on a slippery shelf of rock beside the Atlantic Ocean with a wooden boat full of ashes in my hands.
Sunday, November 19, 2000
I visited my mother at Versa Care, an ‘old age home’ outside of London. I was accompanied by my older son David and his son Jackson. Jack was only about two years old at the time and will not likely recall the uncomfortable scene.
My mother was almost totally uncommunicative because of Parkinson’s Disease, dressed in her well-worn burgandy housecoat and pajamas, and I lifted her head and shoulders carefully so she could see Jack in David’s arms. She was quite stiff and I don’t think she recognized any of us.
I recall her shared room was quite small, didn’t smell the best, and had a window to surrounding barren fields. My mother was in her last days and we didn’t stay very long.
Sunday, November 26, 2000
I went for an early morning run with friends and afterward stretched and cooled off outside the Running Room store located at the corner of Richmond and Hyman streets in London. A Running Room staff member exitted the store and unexpectedly spoke to me.
“Your wife called and left a message. You’re supposed to call home.”
So I called home, suspecting all was not well. My wife Pat gently told me my mother had died. My demeanour changed during the few minutes I spent speaking to Pat and a friend asked if I was okay as I walked toward my car.
“My mother died while I was out,” I said, without stopping. And I was soon home.
It’s true, the best laid plans can go awry. My mother died on the day I’d planned to take my father to see her for the first time at Versa Care. He wanted to see her and I know she would have wanted to see him, because during their last visit together, at Trillium Retirement Home (mother’s last place of residence) in their hometown of Norwich, they had been very happy to see and visit with one another. Their conversation had been close, heart-felt and - to a degree - animated, and when it came time to go my mother declared she wanted Doug to stay longer.
“Don’t leave me,” she said.
But there was nothing to do but go.
And on November 26, instead of taking my father to see his wife I visited him with tragic news.
Once home from the Running Room I asked siblings who lived nearby - and already alerted that our mother had died - to join me in the trip to my father’s small room at London’s Psychiatric Hospital on Highbury Avenue.
More to follow.
Link to Bury Me At Sea 1
Photos by GH