Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Ashes to ashes...dust to dust....

.......Well maybe not. Last week my brother-in-law passed away. Death is always very sad. It can be ameliorated by age or circumstance, perhaps, but it is still a parting, an emptiness, that only the one who has passed, can fill.

It helps, though, to focus on the positives. I am happy to say that he was a good man. Although, he never married, he did look after his immediate family - brother, sister, nieces and nephews, when called upon, and he did create opportunities for the family to "come together," after their mother had died.

He was also very successful in his life's work, which involved computers from their early development - late '60s early '70s. OK, he wasn't an Alan Turing, but he did know several of the very early computer languages and worked with multinational corporations in Europe, Africa, Britain and Canada, developing "computer systems" for libraries - he was also an avid reader.

I am not sure that knowing computer languages makes you a linguist but my brother-in-law was also  fluent in English, French, German, Spanish and Italian. Scottish Gaelic was a language he was mastering, just before his death - not exactly a "dead" language, but it might have been a calling home.

Ironically, although, he was a linguist, he was not a conversationalist. Small talk bored him and he found people with small minds insufferable. Fortunately, he tolerated family. Needless to say, making conversation, at times, was a challenge. I often resorted to discussing the intricacies of a language to keep the conversation going, as it were.

For example, "in gaelic does the verb come first in the sentence and if so, does it explain the unusual sentence structure of those who speak it."

Such as - "So, sleeping, is it, that you'll be doing."

Alas, I have digressed. I need to get back to the ashes and the dust. However final it may seem, Death is a work in progress for the survivors. There are lawyers, government agencies, funeral directors, florists, friends, contacts etc., etc., to be notified.

There are the books, notebooks, keepsakes and curios of the deceased to be attended to and then there are the ashes. My brother-in-law requested cremation. Easy enough on paper, however, put into practice, this is how it went.

Ben is centre back

1. There are three crematoriums in Edinburgh - two are operational and one is closed for renovations. Remember Death is an industry.

2. There is a waiting list. Even in the afterlife one cannot escape the proverbial British queue. You may die in an instant, but it will take fourteen days to bury you.

3. Then there is the burial. Some throw ashes out to sea or strew them in a favourite public place. Still others keep the spirit on a mantelpiece or in a top draw. In fact, I can say "hi" to my mother, whenever I reach for my comb - she lives in my top drawer.....oops maybe I shouldn't have said that!

I had mentioned to my husband, if he had trouble finding a final resting place for his brother's ashes, he might think of  having them buried in the plot with his mother and father in Blantyre. Now, this is where things got really tricky. My husband said that, that particular cemetery was closed and although both his mother and father were there, there were several other people buried in the plot, as well, whom nobody knew.

Now, I ask you, do you know with whom you will be spending eternity? It may not just be a case of ashes and dust. There are all these other considerations and all the skeletons, so to speak, that come out of the woodwork. Death is not for the faint of heart and it takes more than a certificate to say you have gone. In fact, if you think about it, you could literally hang around for a long time waiting for the powers that be to sort it out.

A little macabre, perhaps, but celtic humour tends to the dark side. It's a way of coping, let's say.

The picture - the family together, minus one nephew, on Christmas in Barcelona, 2012. He was loved!!

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