So near, but yet so far

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.

TheΒ  headstones themselves, names and dates with few words,Β  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.


12 responses to “So near, but yet so far

  1. Hiya *waves*

    I so know this feeling. Me and my husband have my step daughter on set days. Her school is just around the corner and depending on my husband’s shift pattern sometimes we see her being dropped off at school by a childminder (which her mum uses) on her days. It’s such a strange feeling watching her. She is 7 so wouldn’t be sad/confused if she saw us but we feel like we have to take a step back on days which aren’t ours. Feels like we *should* be taking her to school and usually puts us in an odd mood for the rest of the day. We see her loads (4 days a week) so I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining! It’s just a really odd feeling.

    Enjoy your picnic πŸ™‚

    • Thanks for your comment. For me it was odd too. Of course I’m not complaining either, I think, but not being able to do the thing that’s so natural felt weird.
      And thanks for reading. πŸ™‚

  2. I was more or less brought up in a cemetery as my mother sought out deceased worthies for her local history books. They tend to be serene, contemplative places and I think it’s vital that children are introduced to them early on so that they can assimilate ideas of death before they are old enough to be shocked. A teacher friend took 10yr olds through a churchyard and a couple were horrified to discover for the first time that there were bodies under the stones. The dead are part of us, hence their memorials in the midst of living communities. I should like to think of children playing round my tomb, so go ahead and picnic there. PS My favourite epitaph is to an old man in a Surrey churchyard and reads ‘Removed from all the things of which he disapproved.

  3. Great post. I know exactly what you mean. I run an Eco Club at my daughter’s school. My daughter is a member and we meet once a week. During the meeting she sometimes rests her head on my shoulder or puts her arm around me as she would do when we are watching TV etc. But if feels a bit strange because we are at school with other children with the headteacher there (who takes part in the club). At the end of the meeting I regularly get a big cuddle and a kiss. I am never sure what to do at this point. I don’t want to tell her that in certain circumstances a kiss and a cuddle may not be suitable – because I am her Dad and a kiss and a cuddle from my daughter is a wonderful thing. I worry (like you say) that someone may see this and not know that I am the girl’s dad and that it is all perfectly innocent. Maybe it is just me! Maybe I should just stop worrying about silly things. I’ll take the kisses and cuddles while I can!
    Anyway, I am new to your blog and look forward to reading more.

  4. I know what you mean but I love seeing my kids from afar. I get to see how they inter-act with other people without me in the way. It is very odd not to run up and tell them you can see them though.

  5. I can understand that totally,especially as you were not expecting to see the kids.I would definitely felt a bit strange about it.By the way I think you did the right thing by not going to them,it always sets kids off when they see their mums and dads doesnt it.Great post,I always think your writing is insightful and it always makes me think and I mean that so I hope it doesn’t sound daft!

    • Thanks for your comment. I always think most of my posts make ME sound daft, but I’m glad you felt I did the right thing. Maybe I’ll not hang around in trees next time. πŸ™‚

      • You must be joking mister,you are one of the most articulate writers in the blogosphere.Pretty unique for a ‘man’ Sorry I shouldn’t have said that but actually I do mean it!
        Yes perhaps you will have to stop lurking in trees and I’ll stop lurking on blogs giving gushy stuff out!
        I work in a nursery and I know how it effects kiddiewinks when they unexpectedly see their parents,honestly you did do the right thing πŸ™‚
        Oh and keep churning the writing out,it’s good stuff

  6. It’s nice to know that a bloke can actually feel this way too πŸ™‚ I often wish I was a fly on the wall,it’d make it so much easier to talk about the day. That’s why I offer to help in school and go on class trips whenever I can! Well written, I enjoyed reading thanks.

  7. If I went to visit my mum’s grave and saw a family enjoying a picnic nearby I’d be over the moon.
    Go for it, enjoy the cemetery and the sunshine and each other.

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