It has been almost nine months since Kate passed away and I received her ashes last week. Is such a delay normal? I do not know. what are you doing with them I do not know that either. I’ve put them in a closet now.
They’re in an ugly green plastic container. It looks like packaging for something you would buy at a garden center. But instead of slug pellets or weed killer, it’s marked with a label that says “Kate Dempsey 4091.” It is difficult. And if you looked inside you would see that the ash itself is granular. More like sand than ash you would remove from a fire. My first reaction when I saw them was to worry about Keith Richard’s nasal passage: he claims to have snorted his father’s ashes.
So, like I said, they’re currently in the back of a closet. I know what I’m going to do with them in the long run – Kate was never one to take things to chance. She asked to bury her ashes under a tree. But she didn’t name a specific tree.
She was also aware of being cremated rather than buried. Her body was taken to the crematorium immediately after the burial, but I did not accompany her. I was told the crematorium was in an industrial area near the airport – not a pretty place, and one that might upset my four boys. So I stayed with them while their bodies were taken to the crematorium.
Then life took over and I forgot about Kate’s remains. They weren’t something I felt a strong attachment to. graves, burial places, ashes; These weren’t urgent things. They were abstract – at least that’s how it seemed to me. There were enough immediate challenges. I had to tend to the living before I could think of what to do with the dead.
We celebrated her birthday in May. It was a tame affair, cakes and chips and sugary drinks. But one of my six-year-old twins got mad and angry at me. Where’s Mama’s body? he asked. Why doesn’t she have a tombstone? Why isn’t she in a cemetery where we can visit her? They were good questions.
I started looking for answers. Fingal County Council has a page on its website detailing burial options. It starts by telling you all the cemeteries you can no longer bury people in in north County Dublin and goes downhill from there. It’s not user friendly.
For the most part, it reads like a price list detailing all the fees, costs, and required permits. A burial site without a foundation for a tombstone costs an amount. One with foundation for a tombstone will cost more – except in a burial ground where VAT is charged. A permit is required for a tombstone and that also costs money. The cost of keeping urns in burial grounds varies depending on the size of the urn. Even in death, size matters.
It wasn’t helpful. There were no answers to my questions. Just a bureaucratic shakedown. Google told me about a place in Wexford where ashes are buried and a tree planted. But Kate wanted a place closer to home where the boys could remember her.
You are free to bury or spread the ashes on your own land. But burying them in my yard is a risky business. The dog is ripping up everything I plant and is currently working its way through some raspberry bushes. He would no doubt dig up anything we planted.
This research was put on hold when the summer holidays came. But now school’s back, I’ve got time to find out. So I collected the ashes and kept them in the closet.
I’ll check it out with the guys and tell them where their remains are going. Wherever they go, it will mostly be for them. I don’t really feel connected to the remains. I’ve looked into the plastic urn a few times, wondering if the ashes will evoke any feelings. But they don’t. You are just ashes. You are not her. No longer.
For support of the quality palliative care services at St Francis Hospice, Raheny and Blanchardstown see: sfh.ie/donate
https://www.independent.ie/life/health-wellbeing/health-features/a-widowers-diary-what-do-you-do-with-a-persons-ashes-i-dont-really-know-so-theyre-in-the-wardrobe-for-now-42030759.html Diary of a widower: “What do you do with a man’s ashes?” I don’t know exactly, so they are in the closet now.