Saturday, 12 November 2011

On setting a gravestone for my Grandmother

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Today I did something new. I put in a gravestone for my grandmother.

My paternal grandmother could be a bit of a battleaxe at times, but she was only like that because she knew she was better than other people (she once told me this in all seriousness) and, if I am honest, I am not sure I am in any position to dispute that. Certainly I do not pretend to be knowledgeable enough to judge.

It is perhaps a wonderful and sensible approach to life, after all, is that not the whole point of CBT? Without doubt she had a profound effect on us all, particularly in the stoicism line and we do mourn her passing, although it was her time. The girls, in particular, loved to see her, delighting in playing with the osteoarthritic lumps on her fingers in the innocent way that only children can and which we all secretly rather enjoy - We were frightened of Grandmama as children, but my girls never were, despite her looking far scarier than she ever had in her youth. It saddens me that the youngest will probably not remember her.

Anyway, Grandmama died just before Christmas and the weather was bleak. The snow was so very thick that it seemed as though the interment would not be able to go ahead, but it seemed important to get her underground before Christmas, so we went down to the undertakers with a 4X4 and were quite insistent.

It was not easy - the hearse was automatic and would not get along the Dartmoor lanes in the snow - some hills are too much for any engine when the ground is a rink of Olympic properties. I had to get out and push the hearse up 3 hills on the way (we would have towed it, but for the towing eye needing to be screwed in and being housed under my grandmother) and we finally gave up about 20 yards shy of the church.

Some villagers made the journey on foot and they sang 'all things bright and beautiful' whilst we ferried folk who could not make it by car around in the 4X4 and started only 30 minutes late. No funeral, just my 3 cousins and my sister singing Brother James's Air and some words from the rector and in she went.

Apart from the Rector calling my grandmother "Kathleen" (her name being Katharine), which she would have absolutely hated, it all went well (and that made my father laugh out loud, which rather settled the whole matter down anyway).

We stood there for a bit, so I called out 'Well I'm freezing, what say we all go back into the church for a sing-song?' and so we did.

A few carols in the cold and back to warmth we went.

It was all very pleasant, if that is an appropriate word, but her brother could not make the trip (he is well into his nineties, after all) and several people have said that they felt that the missed out on 'closure'.

I detest the term, but I know what they mean.

So we are going to have a blessing of the stone on the 20th, which meant, of course, that it had to go into the ground.

I went to the farm my Grandmother grew up on and found a hunk of granite, which I dug out from what used to be a hedge and brought it back to Exeter to have it turned into her gravestone.

Here is the stone, along with a mock-up of how I first envisioned it looking:



I am very pleased to be doing this sort of thing, it is immensely satisfying to be able to do something so definite and useful. Not that gravestones are intrinsically useful, but you know what I mean.

As it turns out, I have also left a space for my Aunt on the bottom of the panel. I can confirm that discussing with an octogenarian the preferred wording of her grave marker is a little bit surreal, but we had to make sure we left the right amount of room.

Anyway, it was carved out and now it is in the churchyard, after much heaving of rock today.



The photograph cannot really convey just how massive it is. Not large, as such, just clearly heavy. Serious, even. 1/2 tone of granite (and ballast) is not light. It is, for example, not on jot lighter than half a ton of anything else you care to mention. Nor is digging a hole on Dartmoor normally that easy a task (although it was not too bad, as it happened), but the job is done and I am very satisfied by it all.

Hers is 2nd from the right, front row - next to the wooden cross in the foreground. It will settle in, but I am happy with it. Not only does it look vernacular, but, much more importantly, it is from the farm she grew up on and I would prefer that, even if it was rubbish.




As an aside, it looks a lot less like a television in real life.

Sorry for rambling, have fun and, should she be alive, go visit your grandmother.

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