A couple of weekends ago, before my eldest and my sister’s older two dispersed for university, our families gathered, and together with Colin and our mother Zerin, went to visit Bastien’s grave at the South Downs Natural Burial Site. Part of our mission was to put up the beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired bird box that Colin had made in Bastien’s workshop.
This visit was in stark contrast to our previous one. Last time was a cold, wet November day when around sixty of us travelled down the A3 to see the wicker basket that carried my father gently lowered into the chalk. Friends and family spoke warmly, Bastien’s youngest grandson played the fiddle, his oldest sang. Peter Lloyd Jones has kindly made his heart felt eulogy available and you can read it here.
Tears flowed and mixed in with the rain. We cheered up afterwards in a pub. The journey back was bad for most and appalling for others. There was a pile up on the A3; some of our party did not get back to London until well after midnight.
This time was a gloriously warm and sunny day in September. Our visit started with a fabulous lunch in the South Downs Sustainability Centre’s cafe. The young chef did us proud and whipped up a selection of lovely dishes – caramelised onion tarts, stilton and chutney sandwiches and delicious vegetable quiche – washed down with local ale and followed by coffee and home made cakes. Of course there were were feelings of sadness and loss, but the overwhelming, clawing, anxiety that had gripped me before did not surface.
Finding the spot
The Sustainability Centre offered us the use of their mind-of-its-own electric wheel chair providing Zerin with the means to get down the valley and the rest of us with no end of laughs. The battery, needless to say, did not last the course. The machine had to cross the best part of a couple of kilometres over quite rough terrain. On arrival at the end of the path, our youngest was dispatched up a tree to survey the land and identify the position of Bastien’s plot. We found him and set about clearing the weeds and decorating his grave. Bastien acquired a new spine, a good, strong one fashioned out of flints. No more crumbling bones for this man!As the day turned to evening, we pushed Zerin back up the hill, clambered into the cars and headed home.
Final resting place
I feel a great sense of ownership of the forest where Bastien lies. Zerin will join him in time, right on top of him as it happens. Dementia prevents her from understanding quite what this means, but I think she would be happy with the knowledge if only it would stick. Perhaps I will book a place for myself. It does not matter that it is so far from home. What matters is that the family will have a lovely place to gather and to play. Hey kids, come dance on my grave!