Added: Leshaun Pendergrast - Date: 25.10.2021 10:51 - Views: 22533 - Clicks: 3398
When council rules threatened to limit grave offerings, Wendy Pratt fought back.
B efore my daughter died, the idea of the cemetery was an abstract concept. If I had considered it before, I would never have equated the scrubbing of a hetone and the trimming of grass with what our ancestors had done before us. White laminated s had appeared, pocking the peaceful landscape like fungi. The s were written in the sort of tone that might politely ask you to be considerate and wash your own cups up in the office tea room. Instead they said that the council wanted the grave owners to remove all grave goods, except flower planters, leaving nothing that would impede maintenance or look messy.
They were enforcing a rule that was already in the guidebook they gave me eight years before, when I was crawling over the rubble of my obliterated world and my thoughts were elsewhere. I barely remember that day, when we came to pick her plot.
He was crying. He was clawing his fingers into the ground and he was crying. I read the over and over. Someone may have put their foot on the small plot of her grave and leaned over, nudging her things to one side to take measurements. They might as well have stood on her body. They never use the hearse for babies. I kept thinking about the definitive nature of the day, that this was the last time that the three of us would be together. I felt stretched open, emptied out of an entire person. Our first grave gifts went into her coffin: a letter from each of us, a photo and a teddy bear.
As the limousine drove down the avenue of blossoming trees, the pink petals drifted in great pink swathes across the road. Then we were at the grave, and the hole in the ground was waiting to swallow our baby up, and I suddenly knew why they use the green baize around the edges: because the reality of putting your baby in a hole in the ground is too hard.
I watched a few stray pink petals float into the black. Instead we tore the rosebuds off the flower displays, kissed them and threw them in. They made a sound like cat paws on glass. We were so lost. We bought lilies from a proper florist. There was no hetone yet. Some of the graves have LED solar-powered lights that come on after dark. Some of the graves are adorned with teddies that have mouldered in the wet, some with flowers, ornaments, cherubs. There are some that look like gardens. Each one is as individual as the child, as individual as the parents. We decided we wanted the grave to attract wildlife — insects, birds, squirrels.
We are animal lovers and have always pictured her with the dog and cat and helping Mummy with the rabbits. There is a strangeness to the sudden change in perception. Everything you know about corpses changes, because your perfect child who looks as if they are sleeping is now also a corpse. I would have benefited from some literature from the council or the cemetery itself that explained the importance of the grave in the grieving process. Instead it has the feeling of being a storage facility for the dead.
Yet in other cultures the cemetery is embraced by the people who use it. In some South American cultures, the dead are emptied from their coffins, cleaned and redressed each year in a continuing act of love. Yet in British culture it would appear that we are intent on maintaining a stiff upper lip, stoically neatening cemeteries out of all personalisation. With this said, it is clear that the instinct to care for your child does not die with your child: it overrides anything else. In general, parents are predisposed to care for and nurture their children.
Burial beneath the ground is antithetical to this drive and yet this must be somehow dealt with. By I was no longer visiting the grave every day. I was visiting every week.
Then I had a miscarriage and my grave visits became more structured and ritualistic again as I struggled with guilt over the fact that I had tried to move away from the baby in the ground and tried to have a new, live baby. I also struggled with feelings around not being a real mum. No one else knew my daughter except myself and my husband, and I am the only one who knew her as a living, kicking, moving baby, as someone who was different from me, as someone who existed. I felt I had to prove her existence. I took it as my responsibility to ensure that no one forgot that she existed.
New graves began to arrive. I watched the newly bereaved move through their grief; the daily visits that become weekly, monthly. Some graves became untended. Some parents went on to have new babies, and more often than not, these were the families who appeared less frequently to tend the graves. It has been a long journey to find a catalyst within my own needs to justify to myself and my daughter? Though I grieved for the two small lives we briefly created, there was not the same need to care for them.
There is a direct equivalence between investment, love and grief. Even the process of actively trying to conceive is a weight that can be measured against the sudden drop when the opposite weight — the baby, whether physical or not — is removed. By we had stopped trying to conceive and decided to embrace -free future. I fought the council on the enforcement of the rules. A thousand people ed my petition. I went on the radio to argue for the need for grief to find its own way, for the special circumstances that child loss brings.
This is also about being a mum, about looking after my daughter, about looking after the other parents, newly initiated into the club that no one wants to be in. We win. I take flowers from the supermarket, roses and a bunch of expensive lilies. I kiss my hand to the hetone and tell her she is not forgotten.
Wendy Pratt is a former biomedical scientist and now a widely published writer and award-winning poet who also offers mentoring to other writers. She lives in North Yorkshire. Thomas is a London-based photographer working for Wellcome. He thrives when collaborating on projects and visual stories. He hails from Italy via the North-east of England. We use a third party provider, dotdigitalto deliver our newsletters. For information about how we handle your data, please read our privacy notice.
You can unsubscribe at any time using links in the s you receive. Getting here. Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is d under a Creative Commons Attribution 4. Wellcome Collection. Teddy bear, Thomas SG Farnetti. Source: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4. Windmill, Thomas SG Farnetti. Rosebuds on a white coffin They never use the hearse for babies.
The week after the funeral We were so lost. Insect house, Thomas SG Farnetti.
Insect house. Buddhist statue. Remembering my daughter By I was no longer visiting the grave every day. Daffodils, Thomas SG Farnetti. Looking after other bereaved parents By we had stopped trying to conceive and decided to embrace -free future. About the contributors. Wendy Pratt. Thomas S G Farnetti. Try these next. Read another story. Plan a visit.Looking to bury my
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