Aunts and Uncles

On New Years Day one of my Aunts died. Or passed away as it is more usually softly called.

My relationship with this Aunt was not close. In latter years I would never visit, at most send her and her husband (my mother’s brother) a Christmas Card. We did live hundreds of miles apart but this was not the reason for the distance between us. This description could apply to nearly all my aunts and uncles, whatever the geographical space separating us.

I do have fondness towards my aunts and uncles. But ‘fondness’ though a warm word is not as warm as ‘affection’ let alone ‘love’.

I have nieces and nephews myself whom I love and love spending time with. I did not get much nephew time with my own aunts and uncles. And wonder why.

Most of my aunts and uncles have children of their own and I do not. Perhaps then this is why I am able to spend more uncle-time as I have no father-time with sons and daughters to consume my love, time, energy, affection.

But I have an aunt and uncle who do not have children and did not spend too much time with them either.

The distance between us may be related to the geographical miles between us. Certainly with social media, and Facebook in particular, I am able to keep in a more constant contact with my nieces and nephews than if we did not have this access – I live in Scotland and have one set of nieces and nephews in London England and another on the Gold Coast in Australia.

Had their been social media in the decades I was born and schooled in (the 1960’s and 1970’s) perhaps this would have held those avuncular and – what is the equivalent for aunt?! – bonds together.

But if I think about it the most likely reason for our emotional distance are the relationships between those aunts and uncles and my own mother and father. Their own sibling rivalries which ebbed and flowed over the years. Nevermind the added in-law dimension.

As children our adult relationships are naturally siphoned and routed through our parents. And so if they are not getting along with one of their own adult relatives then quite likely we children are not going to be allowed to get along with those adult relatives either.

Husbands and wives can get divorced. Brothers and sisters as adults are not so required but in all but name and legal statute they can be too.

I opened by noting that I was out of the habit in recent years of visiting my aunts and uncles. Sadly there is one event that remains a notable exception that will always bring most of us together again. A funeral.

And with age they occur more often. They become less shocking and grievous and more resigned to and contemplative. And we resume our conversations with each other. Some polite small talk, even more nostalgia and sometimes we go deeper too. We usually end by promising to keep in touch. And then we don’t….until the next funeral.

I close with a photograph featuring my recently departed aunt (we are at our most euphemistic with death – the one area we are perhaps even more euphemistic about is a bit of what you fancy?!). The photograph is the wedding of another of my aunts and uncles but one of the few I possess with her in. It is the after-reception you are seeing.

Family Wedding photoMy mum’s parents are in there and so is my mum but I am not telling you which. You are free to guess! My dad is in there too but has stood behind someone taller and only the hair of his head can be seen. I don’t know whether this was his intention! The photo is filled up with other aunts and uncles too.

There are a number in this photograph I do not recognize which I think is typical of old family wedding photos. I am presuming/hoping those unknown to me are all friends of various family members and not family members who I cannot make sense of in their younger state!

They are stood outside the home of my grandparents.

Green Burials – Back to Nature?

As I get older I naturally think more of my own death, and mindful of the attitude Memento Mori (Remember You Will Die) strive to ensure I live out all my dreams.

Thinking about death I also reflect on my own funeral. I have attended both funerals of my own parents in the last few years and most recently an uncle. All these funerals were Christian burials – two internments and one cremation.

I do not believe in God – or I believe this is what I believe anyway!

My father did not believe either yet his final farewell was within the setting of a Christian service. This is traditional in the United Kingdom – familiar and comforting. My father did leave a will but it said nothing about his funeral wishes. I went then with the traditional arrangement. To arrange something secular might not have been something he would have approved of, perhaps also difficult for me to arrange and difficult for those in attendance to deal with. Perhaps.

Back to nature

I have many years considered that I would like a secular burial – to be laid to rest underneath a tree in non-consecrated ground. I have indicated this in my own will.

It is something I am able to do because The Natural Death Centre, an organisation established in 1991, set themselves up to provide alternative responses to religious funereal ceremonies. And one of their means to this end is the setting up of Burial Grounds throughout the UK – this page on their own website explains this in more detail.

I am sharing this here as I have just read a beautiful blog post in Scientific American ‘My Dead Mother, the Tree That Never Was: The Psychology of “Green Burial Practices” by Jesse Bering.

I write this blog post not sure how it will be received. In Britain in general we do not like to talk about death so by extension to write and read about it in blogs but I feel and believe we should discuss it more than we do, whilst not morbidly obsessing over it, and I hope this post resonates with at least some of you reading this.

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