Monday, November 27, 2006


Picking up on part of yesterday’s post: As I draw nearer to the end of my time in this world, I am finding that my rather ill-informed agnosticism is not enough to take me there in comfort and acceptance. The total eclipse of Judith is something that seems wasteful, and leaves me feeling unsatisfied.

I know that I shall be passing on my genes down the generations, as mine have been passed to me; and I know that I shall leave behind the effect of my presence in this life on the people I have known, also possibly in a published book if I get on with it, and certainly in this blog in cyberspace, for as long as the host chooses to keep it there. The genes will go on forever of course, being modified and, hopefully, improved as they are passed down. But the rest is still pretty transitory.

I would like to think that there is some form of recycling or re-use, or something of durable value which would survive, though not necessarily of my individual self. Here’s a thought: perhaps I could offer my soul by email to my local Freecycle Group, where people can exchange unwanted items for nothing, rather than throw them away:

OFFERED: One soul, female Well used but good for a year or two yet. Collection Hertfordshire area.

Seriously though, reincarnation doesn’t seem logically sound, as the number of people on earth is not constant: where would the extra souls come from for the extra people? The best I have been able to think up is that there might be some sort of universal consciousness-at-large, with which the individual consciousness might merge when it no longer has a corporeal home, possibly even contributing something to the general expansion of that consciousness.

I do not ask for scientific proof in order to be able to believe, at least enough to have peace of mind, but perhaps for a good logical possibility of something as yet unconfirmed by science. I’d love to have your ideas, dear readers, if you are still with me after this long post.

[I found these gorgeous representations of consciousness via Google Images.]

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Have I got it wrong?

The impact of my husband's funeral on my life has been unexpected in many ways. It was a sad but wonderful day, in which his own family and the family of his church came together, all contributing, all much moved by the occasion, and well pleased to be united at this time, though they were not, sadly, in his lifetime.

At the age of 16, I had found it impossible, logically, to believe any longer in the Christian god, and have since then called myself an agnostic, whilst leaning from time to time towards a number of other belief systems. This difference between us might have been an insuperable obstacle, but somehow we made it work, at least while we raised our children, though I believe it was always a great sadness for my husband that I could not share his faith.

Over the years, I have often been aware of how much was missing from my life by not being part of a church family. With the funeral, during the arrangements, on the day, and afterwards, this has been brought into really sharp focus, as I came to appreciate fully just how much his church meant to him, and how much he was valued by the church.

Can we not create such communities around other focal points? We can be good, caring, generous and honourable people without being Christians, and yet we do not seem to find the same all-embracing commitment, cohesiveness and purposefulness in, say, the Women’s Institute, or other social bodies of people. Or do I do them an injustice?

Some of our friends left the funeral saying that they wanted one just like it! What I do know is that there is no local community at present which will join with my family to celebrate my life, as this church community has done for my husband. Mind you, he was a very special man, in ways which I could not aspire to, but even so ………

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The day after ...

It has been a comfort and delight for me over the period of my husband's funeral, to have my sons around, including No 1, who came over from Australia. Because he is currently the strongest in a family of back sufferers, we had to take advantage of his being here to begin the business of clearing out the clutter which my husband, a committed handyman, had accumulated over the years.

No bit of wood, no mechanical device, no broken object that might be repaired, was ever discarded. The homes of his family and friends will bear witness to his skill and ingenuity in the DIY field for a long time to come, but more remained unused than had ever been recommissioned, and clearance had to be made before a valuer could be brought in. He lived alone in a 4-bed, 3-recep, and only used two rooms, so there was a lot of junk-filled space, evidence of which can be seen in the picture above of the first skipful.

In some ways it was tough to start clearing out his home straight away, but having something demanding to do the day after the funeral has its advantages too. We arrived at the house with a clear plan for working on the rooms, but suddenly I found myself alone with nothing going on. I discovered the three boys out the back, where they were breaking themselves in for the more emotional task by starting in the garage. T
hey were dragging stuff out, karate-kicking it to pieces, then hurling it into the skip. As you can see, they ended up with an exceptionally clear space which might actually have housed a car if necessary! After that they could face the indoors.

This process of sorting and disposal can be quite amusing to watch, as the dominant urge to 'get rid' in one person conflicts with the inherited urge to 'save because it could be useful' in another. What is more, after their first run to the local dump (skip not big enough!) they had come back with two trophies! An antique suitcase (which No 4 collects out of interest, and because he uses suitcases in his street theatre shows); and a three-foot long builder's spirit level made by John Rabone & Son, a now non-existent firm with which our family has close connections. I have made a considerable collection of Rabone rules and spirit levels over the years, so this was a great find.

As with most things, there has been a bright side to all the hard work involved in planning and clearing, in as much as members of the family have had some 'together time', working, playing and remembering, which is all too rare these days. We ended that first day with an early dinner in a new restaurant which was first class - indeed, in our filthy house-clearing clothes we were scarcely good enough for it! My daughter-in-law and the two grandchildren joined us, in a private room, and the evening concluded with some vigorous bargaining over who was fit to drive home, and whose car(s) could be left in town overnight. I know I was taken home, and that was all I was worried about by then!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Michael's last journey

This picture was taken a few years ago, but I saw it immediately as an allegory for the last journey that Michael would make, so very apt because he was a passionate lover of trains, and was here indulging his love of steam on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway in Yorkshire, where he was staying with our youngest son Richard. These little railways, lovingly preserved and run by steam lovers like himself, are a great tourist attraction in the UK - and probably in other countries too. It is hard to see here, but the words on the board seen through the train window are: "Journey into the night" - also astonishingly apt in this context. My son tells me it would have been a notice of a special train excursion run in the evening, with dinner being offered on board. I hope Michael had nourishment on his journey too!

I made a collection of photographs of Michael on a CD, and we ran them as a slideshow in the church hall after the service. There were about 36 of them, covering his whole life from the age of 3. This was much appreciated, despite the fact that the quality of many of the family snaps was pretty poor, given his long life of 89 years! We also printed this picture, the final one in the slideshow, on the back of the order of service, so together with the recorded sound of the steam loco at the crematorium, we were able to give the day the special flavour that he loved.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Back on the blog

It is time now for me to write again, and to thank all my friends who sent messages of sympathy, which I so greatly appreciated.

We celebrated Michael's life on Monday, in the church which he thought of as his second family. The service, which was planned jointly by the church and ourselves, included tributes both from his own family and from members of the congregation. The choir sang a song which one of them had written to celebrate his 80th birthday nine years ago, and he was played out to the cheerful strains of "When the saints go marching in".

The flowers in the church had been done specially, and a group of church ladies had put on a terrific buffet in the church hall, which enabled us all to meet straight after the service and share our feelings and memories. I had made a collection of photographs of Michael on a CD, covering his whole life from the age of 3 and we ran them as a slideshow. This was much appreciated, despite the fact that the quality of many of the family snaps was pretty poor, given his long life of 89 years!

Later, at the crematorium, we saw Michael off on his last journey to the sounds of a steam locomotive pulling out of the station and disappearing into the distance. This was a sound he always loved so much, and I think he would have been happy to ride by train into eternity.