Friday, 12 October 2012

What happened to my Mom's remains, Dad?

You might think that discussing the whereabouts of a dead parent to their seven-year-old son would be a little tricky, and perhaps, undesirable to do.

I actually don't mind when my son quizzes me on things like this, in fact I'd say I prefer when he does, when he leads conversations like this it means he is learning, and dealing with his grief, at his own pace.

We actually got on to this topic by talking about Steve Irwin, the great Australian wildlife television presenter and champion that tragically died at the hand, or tail rather, of a sting ray.

Max wanted to know if Mr Irwin was still in the sea, as I presume he thought he'd died in the ocean and then sunk.  I advised that no, he was rescued in body if not in life.

It lead my lovely boy down a road of asking where his mom is now, and what happened to her after her death.

I explained that she was cremated, making sure he understood what that meant but without feeding him with the gruesome reality of that process.

We got on to the subject of her ashes and what had been done with them.

I explained that we could have scattered them, but instead that they had been interred in a cemetery grave where his mom's grandparents were also buried.

Without wanting to encourage or discourage him we got talking about his mother's grave.  I said that I didn't like visiting it very often, and feel like I don't need to be there to feel close to her.

It really is of no help to me to go to her grave, and I think - if she could - she would tell me off for going, as every time I lay flowers there I think what's the point, and beat myself up for going out of guilt or duty.

I appreciate it isn't the same for everyone, and I'd say the majority of people actually get more from a cemetery visit.  Perhaps finding it easier to focus on a missed one in that environment.

It isn't that way for me.

I explained to Max that it doesn't mean I don't think about her, nor miss her, and that it is important to me to remain positive and preserve all the wonderful memories she gave me.  Without tainting them with sad trips to her grave.

He said: "I'm like you, Dad.  I don't want to visit the cemetery, it would make me sad."

I said I understood, but also pointed out that is absolutely fine to feel sad, good for him even, and that he should always keep an open mind to going, regardless of my thoughts and feelings, reassuring him that I'd take him the very minute he thought he'd like to go.

Then he switched topics to whether to have mushy peas or gravy on his chip shop special after his weekly swimming lesson.

We only have important conversations, us two.