Friday, 6 May 2016

the garden at the end of everything

My first Oxford funeral. It's a moment in life. And my first view of Oxford Crematorium, in bright May sunshine.

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narcissi IMG_1033[1] apple blossom and bee>

I'd arrived early, and in tears, not unusual for a funeral, and the remembrance gardens suggested somewhere to compose myself before we began. I ducked under trees heavy with cherry blossom into a formal garden with a fancy four-part carp pond and ranks of rose bushes arranged by species name, each with a small marker beneath it, or a space waiting for that small marker. It was perfect, tidy, weeded, smart and utterly kempt.

I headed on, into a space of long curved beds full of many, many more roses and small trees, each set in a circular memorial garden planted for memory and personality; and among it all a cemetery cat was sat waiting, with the confidence of an animal that knew its strokes would be coming from someone, soon. Today it was me.

Further on the garden became wilder, with larger trees, cypress, yew, apple, and a bright row of copper beeches rippling in the spring sunshine. Some had roses tied to their trunks, others had tulips and bluebells planted round them in perhaps unsanctioned acts of memory. At the far extent, a gate let onto a field and the vast compost heap, warm in the sun,

As I headed uphill, formally designed gardens dotted lawns, little show-gardens of memory full of memorials, and the waiting space for memorials. Rockeries, walled gardens, dry gardens, daffodil lawns, tidy conifers, something for everyone, and always the roses, waiting for their names.

I spotted familiar figures among the waiting mourners and headed downhill, back to the waiting chapel.

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