Sunday 6 November 2016
I never met Chris’s dad, Jim. He died when she was only 28, long before we got to know each other. Today, I drove with Ted to the crematorium where Jim’s ashes had been scattered, to meet Chris’s sister Helen and her mum Joan. They had brought a spring-flowering plant and a trowel and I handed them a container of Chris’s ashes for them to perform their own rite of farewell.
Ted and I waited in the car as they went off into a wooded area, beyond our sight. They’d asked for privacy and I understood that this time I needed to stand back and allow Chris’s immediate family the opportunity to say goodbye in their own way. They returned half an hour later, chilled by the damp autumn weather but smiling.
“Did it go well?” I asked.
“Would you like to come and see?” replied Joan.
I followed them back up the path to a stand of silver birches.
“Look,” said Joan. “This is the same place we scattered her dad’s ashes.”
“We put some underneath and scattered the rest,” said Helen, pointing to the newly planted Osmanthus Burkwoodii. It took a bit of doing I can tell you; the ground was as hard as a brick.”
“And we put this up,” said Joan, indicating a small brass plaque which read:
HERE WITH HER DAD
After a little while we went to a local pub for Sunday lunch and then Helen left for Manchester and I drove Joan back to her home in Stratford-Upon-Avon. As we made our way north, she turned to me in the late afternoon half-light and said quietly:
“Chris loved her family – all of us. But she adored Jim. The two of them used to go skiing most years, you know. She was a Daddy’s Girl, really. I’m very glad they are together again.”