I went for a walk on Monday afternoon. It was sunny and warm and perfect ‘popping into town’ weather. I left my flat and walked twenty yards along the road past the cemetery and suddenly did a double take worthy of Top Cat. The playgroup that my son and daughter attend had gone for a walk in the afternoon and they were all standing in the cemetery looking around.
It’s a lovely spot. Not grim at all, as you might be able to see from the photo up there. *Points up there* The house where my flat is used to be a monumental masons so a lot, if not all of the headstones were made in the building in which I live, which you can see on the far left of the photo, between the trees.
The headstones themselves, names and dates with few words, but few words which say so much about loved ones missed by others. Words from the Bible and others simply from the heart.
‘Called to higher service’
‘In ever loving memory’
‘Heroically he lived. Heroically he died’
It felt odd. Seeing my children. To some this scene might look incongruous. Fifteen under 4’s standing in a cemetery that’s been there for almost 200 years. Indeed, some people might think it’s an inappopriate place to walk through. But I don’t. I don’t imagine the playgroup leaders were teaching them about death and reading headstones. It’s a beautiful spot to walk through and I think it’s great that my children were there. That’s not what felt odd.
The thing that felt odd was this: I’d seen my children, they were over there, and yet I couldn’t go up to them say hello, give them a cuddle and a kiss, and see how they were.
I couldn’t do this as I knew they’d probably want to go home with me and leave playgroup for the day. I couldn’t do this as it would detract from what the playgroup were doing. I couldn’t do this as no other children’s parents were about and it could upset others.
It’s strange seeing the most loved things in your life and NOT being able to go up to them even though they’re 25 feet away. Knowing that you must stay away, when all you want to do it just scoop them in your arms and give them a cuddle. I didn’t ever think this could ever happen. I didn’t think I’d be in a situation where I’d see them and have to stay away from them.
I think I made the right decision. I knew I’d be seeing them later on when I picked them up from playgroup but I took a turn round the corner and stopped for a sec. Watched the children with the rest of their playgroup. Saw my son pointing at the sign asking dog owners to make sure their dogs don’t shit over the place. I saw my son pointing at it and telling the group what it meant. I was so proud.
And then I realised that, to anyone who passed by, I would look a bit weird. A grown man standing there watching children through the trees. If someone asked me what I was doing then ‘There are my children. I’m just watching them as I miss them’ wouldn’t sound so good. I suspect I’d get a funny look or twelve.
That evening I picked my children up from playgroup. Usually it’s a bit of a dead zone as to what they get up to. I ask them what they did and T usually says ‘I played.’ I always ask if they did anything else, like drawing or painting and he says no. Even if he did.
But that day I could ask them what they did knowing something about what they did. I know this cemetery very well. It’s so close to my flat that sometimes I take my morning coffee there and sit in the sun on the bench that’s by the chapel. A bench dedicated to the memory of a 23-year-old boy who died in 1986.
“Daddy. We went to the park. We saw signs and flowers and trees and birds. And it’s nice. We went for a walk and then we sat on the bench.”
The exact same bench where I’m drinking this coffee and writing this post.
T asked if we could have our next picnic there. Not sure how I feel about that really. It’s not like the residents of the cemetery will mind too much, but those visiting loved ones might not want their thoughts and quiet contemplation interrupted by ‘Daddy, can I have another cheese?’ I know we can find a more appropriate place for a picnic, but we could always walk through it on the way. And rest tired little legs on the bench. And my children can rest theirs too.
What do you think? Any thoughts greatly appreciated.
And thanks for reading.