Thursday, 15 October 2015

Mortality - it is nothing to worry about.

A wise man once told me that there are only two certainties in life; one is death and the second is that flat roofs will leak.  Well he was a roofer.  I have to admire his pragmatic approach.  Acceptance of the inevitability of death is fundamental to life.  Being aware that we all die is fundamental to how we live our lives.  The English language is littered with idiomatic phrases about life and death. We don’t hang about pondering death, we live life to the full, because after all, you only live once, unless you are James Bond. Life’s a bitch and then you die.  

I was working(and partying hard) in Tenerife when I first heard that expression. A young Spaniard man raised his shoulders to me and said it.  One word was lost in translation.  I actually heard, “Life’s a beach and then you die.” I enjoy my interpretation far better. It suits my philosophical viewpoint that life is what you make of it.  From my earliest recollections, my wonderful father imbued in me the ability to pick myself up, dust myself off and start all over again.  He taught us to, keep our sunny side up and that when there’s a shine on your shoes there’s a melody in your heart 

After he died, The Rev. Wren came to discuss his funeral arrangements, so me, Mum and my older siblings sat around thinking about him. He was 83, born in 1914, just after hostilities began in Europe. He spent the entire Second World War in India, returning to England six months after VE Day, when people here had already celebrated the end of the war. He joined The Burma Star Association in his later years, helping to raise money for Veterans of the 'Forgotten Army'. He always insisted that death was just a part of life and that we should just leave him on top 
 
We all had amusing things to recall. My youngest brother said, “I envied him. His golf balls had birthdays. He could reach into the bag and tell you where he got a ball, who gave it to him.” For my brother getting home without losing a ball in the rough or the lake was a minor miracle.  Dad, like the song says, always played his tee shot, Straight down the middle. I told the vicar that my father lit up a room just by walking in.  That although he wasn’t a church-goer, he was as wise as Solomon, he could always resolve life’s difficulties in a fair way.  He was a publican and yet he practised and preached moderation in all things, that he was generous to all in the community and that he loved his family, his friends and life. 

He seemed immune to the idea of his own mortality. Perhaps living through the war did that.  He was rocked to the core by the death of his younger brother from cancer and he seemed to lose interest in life for a while after his best buddy died a few years before he did.  Dad’s mother and her two husbands, (she married again after being widowed), are all in one plot in Layton Cemetery.  Apparently there is a free space but there was no way Dad was ever going in the ground. He was laid in state at St Paul’s overnight, his coffin draped with The Union Jack.  His Burma Star Association pals, bugled him through the curtain at the crematorium to ‘The Last Post’ and Mum sprinkled his remains on the rose garden.  

His special gifts for gardening, hospitality, spontaneous acts of generosity, humour, kindness, forgiveness and the ability to love have truly passed to each of his children, to their children and to theirs. Oh and my youngest brother's son James Robinson plays professional golf on the Europro Tour. When Dad died, my children were with me at the hospital. My daughter Katie, who was six at the time, said that Grandad wasn’t in his body anymore: He was up in sky with the stars.
 
  

 
 

Cemetery for the Living 

Where bright sunlight casts dark, tablet squares
on soft, green carpet, mighty pieces congregate
in stalemate game of chess.
The white queen stands on limestone steps,
draped with carved wild rose,
lily of the valley at her feet
worn skeletal by a century of windblown sand.

Opposing knights, hewn angular, in granite armour,
blazed with gilt by mason’s hand,
tower over prostrate pawns,
face down, grown over by the land.
Sandstone rooks with weather beaten-faces,
rendered smooth by season sun and winter freeze,
are nameless, as those buried in some corner of a foreign field.

Players jog along arterial pathways,
baseline beating in their veins through ipod ears.
A walker tugs the lead,
to intercept a disrespectful cocking leg, disturbing one ‘at rest.’
The young rush by, their gazes fixed on living deadlines, 
far beyond the ornate gate,
as they interlace the veil between the mourning and the dead.

Within these crumbling, biscuit walls,
silent voices swirl in sycamore and chestnut bows,
whispering undying epitaphs,
of journeys through the realms of space.
of a millions joys to us as yet unknown.
Alpha and Omega.
We are stardust set in stone.
 

Written in celebration of the Centenary of Layton Cemetery, Blackpool for the 'Walls have Voices' project commissioned by Blackpool Council. 

Thanks for reading.  Adele 
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1 comments:

Steve Rowland said...

I very much like the poem :-)