It’s a beautiful autumn day. A small group of us are standing in a woodland area surrounded by the smells, sounds and stillness that comes with nature. The sun is trying to break through the clouds and just not quite making it, so the group huddles together keeping the cold out. Spindly trees stand tall and disappear into the sky above. At the base of these trees, amongst the wild flowers, small unobtrusive wooden posts have been knocked deep into the damp soil.
Each post bears an engraved plaque with a name and some a small poignant memento; a sleeping cat, a ballerina and one a smiling fishing gnome. We are not in a graveyard we are in a nature park and this is where our friend’s ashes will be buried.
She was diagnosed, treated and died within 3 months from a brain tumour. My Mum’s best friend was 59. Her daughter, much younger than me, has taken a small group following the service to her Mum’s resting place. Dad, my supporter, holds my hand for the first time in years and still I can not find any suitable words for someone who has just lost her Mum.
The previous day on route to the farmers market, my Mum and I light heartedly discussed our funeral arrangements, as you do! We decided the family should be scattered at memorable locations on our home town beach. My Mum by the beachside café, my Dad the cliffs below the golf course and the siblings drew the short straw with me scattered on the nudist beach and my sister the - yet to be drained in 20 years - yacht pond.
I would also like a bench with a plaque saying, ‘Believe in your soul, you’re indestructible, always believe it’. But please, no where near the nudist beach I would like some fabric between bottoms and my bench. Yes, I am lightening the mood as her family did when they paid tribute to a woman who positively affected so many around her. She would also laugh at the thought of my Mum's ashes peppering the beachside cafe 'all day' breakfast for years to come.
Where we stood surrounded by the memories and footprints of loved ones, overwhelmed by the sadness of death, there were no suitable words; so instead we drank some wine, hugged, cried, laughed and made plans for Christmas.
What footprint do you want to leave? What mark on the world? Mine will not be spectacular; I’ll never find a cure for cancer or create world peace (I do have some ideas for the later though!). I can make someone smile when they realise my plaque is the chorus from Spandau Ballets ‘Gold’. They can later curse me as they irritatingly sing it over and over in their heads for the rest of the day. I can also try and make life a little easier and nicer for those around me. So I am ending my support free sabbatical and telling some important people I love them.
Her footprint has been left and is all around us. It was felt by the 200 mourners of all ages who filled and overflowed out of the service room. We all saw the strength and resilience of her husband and children; a day she helped prepare them for and she left no words of love unspoken. Hopefully all those who were there will question what footprint do I want to leave? And act upon it.