Josephine Mary Cromwell Hewlett, née Bush.
At 92 Mum had a good run and went easily. She was independent and still helping others until quite close to the end when balance and forgetfulness caused a fall that broke her hip and she must have decided that 92 was enough. The funeral at the Southdown Sustainability centre was exactly the way she wanted it and the way she had planned it. Although there was a sadness, it was more of the kind of party she liked than any kind of official or religious ceremony. In line with her wishes (and conveniently, Covid restrictions) it was an outdoor, natural 'family and friends' event that would be better described as a Hoolie-do. A tradition that grew out of family get togethers onto a bigger family get together with added friends, celebrations, food, drink, unreliable memories, tall stories and anecdotes. Our connections are now spread out over many countries, several generations, occupations and a broad range of interests. Apart from the graveside element most of the occasion was held in and around the open sided hall seen here. A pleasant, large, and natural wood structure.
Although Mum had decided on where the funeral should be and the nature of the process, Julia did most of the work of turning it into reality, planning food, drink, invitations, logistics and rather a lot of less obvious organisation.
Several guests (the term will do as attendees, mourners, party-goers, don't seem quite the right term) were so impressed with the site, business management, organisation, staff and woodland setting that they said this is the kind of thing they would like for themselves, although generally a bit later.
We were lucky, as usual, with the weather which really couldn't have been better and the woodland both easy enough to negotiate and see through. The ground was dry and secure of foot and stick while not being flat and boring had a natural seeming footpath winding down to a small clearing. This bit of track gives the general impression although a bit wider and flatter than our path.
We followed or guided the cardboard coffin down a gentle slope between trees and glades. The path was made much easier for the six pallbearers by the two wheeled 1911 wooden bier for the distance between the open air hall and the burial site. I can't say it was an overly formal procession with some opportunity for berry picking, chat and physical support in the followers. As a pallbearer I noticed fewer berries on the way back, but that may have been my imagination. The term pallbearer isn't really the right one, but it will do for now. The funeral director, dressed like us in normal clothing, assisted on the single uphill section and advised on the sharper turns. Mum would have been pleased, I think, to know she took the turns on two wheels. The descent was fortunately uneventful and we only got lost once on the return.
The actual grave is of course unmarked, that being the objective, and a straight cut into the chalk with a few inches of soil above. There were other graves nearby and most had disappeared into the general woodland floor. The site has been there for several decades (I was told but forgot) and is part of a sustainability centre https://www.sustainability-centre.org/ The graves are relatively shallow and unaligned, although I got the impression that tree roots were avoided. I imagine that all traces would be lost in a year or so, especially as they are not set in serried ranks as is traditional in formal grave-yards. Visitors can come to the site, but there's no specific place one would feel obliged to return to.
I and others took a few photos. Sadly I didn't think to image the bier as such, but I found a near identical image on-line. The video cam images are somewhat blurry, but you'll get the general idea. It was not a solemn occasion, nor would anybody want it to have been, and Poppy can be heard here and there doing her thing. Apart from my waist-coat and occasionally Poppy all was peaceful and calm. A really nice send off, and I think the white patches are drawings by children rather than adverts
The actual internment was a fairly simple arrangement of lowering the coffin into the grave being about 3 or 4 feet deep. The coffin had been decorated with a few personal notes written by those attending and some sticky labels from those too far away or too infirm. The 'Fields of Gold' by Eva Cassidy was played (the small box on top of the coffin) when I eventually got it to work. Unsurprisingly there was not much phone signal there, and appropriate as Mum never remembered to turn hers on anyway. Various flowers, sprigs and notes were left on the lid, also some of our childhood letters and pictures that Mum had saved. After a bit of traditional dirt scattering we left and returned to the hall. By that time I was able to play her second 'tune' the 23rd psalm. (Lord is my shepherd, otherwise known in this secular age as the 'Vicar of Dibley') I'm not sure anybody heard it because by that time the food, which was excellent, and drink had been found, stories started and long lost relatives identified.
Below, I've put a short video together from the images I took and those I have received. At the end I've added one of Mum's stories and there are some pictures of her, us and the family. Since it is her voice that might upset some, so I've put in a marker in case anybody isn't ready for that. I have been working with her sound tracks for some time now so I'm used to it, the rest of her stories are at http://wardrobestories.homestead.com/ Some are read by Rachel and some by Mum. Other pictures can be added if you tell me about them.