Today’s Dying Matters theme is memorialisation
If you look it up in the dictionary it says memorialisation is “a ceremony to honor the memory of someone or something”. For me the word conjures up images of gravestones, flower holders, cremation urns, and stones etched with the names long dead relatives. If memorialisation was a colour it would be grey, if it was a smell; it would smell damp, if it had a mood it would be miserable.
Seth and I had many conversations when he was well; we talked about what we both wanted when we died. In those conversations he was crystal clear, he didn’t want a stone, a marker, a bench with a name, an entry in a memorial book, he didn’t want to be remembered that way.
He said he wanted to be remembered in the hearts of the people who loved him….
After Seth’s funeral I had a note from the crematorium saying that Seth’s ashes were ready for collection. I ignored the note I didn’t want to go and collect them, I didn’t know what I was going to do with them.
When I finally got the courage to go and collect them about six weeks after the funeral, I was thrown into a state of panic when the lady at the crematorium said they weren’t there !!! where were they? Then it became clear they had been collected by the funeral director. So off I went to collect a large burgundy coloured plastic container that had Seth’s name on the top, the container was in a black cotton tote bag all very respectable.
I put the container in the bag on the seat in the car, I didn’t dare put it in the boot, I was so worried about it that I put the seatbelt around it.
When I got home I looked at the name on the top of the container and started to cry and then the tears quickly turned to hysterical laughter, when I read that name it said Seth Lucie Goodburn.
Seth’s name was Seth Lucian Goodburn three simple names that when put together seemed to cause many people a problem. He was often called Steph, Stephan, Seeth, Lucian was usually ok and then Goodburn could have the names Goodwin, Goodstein, Goodhead, Goodbeam and even Goodbum. I once took a phone call where someone asked for Seeth Lucan Gordbeam.
On the day of the ashes collection, what made me laugh was that one of my nick names for Seth was Lucy-Ann a mickey take on Lucian so when the name plate said Lucie it seemed like synchronicity.
When the laughter and the tears stopped, I emptied a deep drawer in the bedroom, lined it with a soft fleeced blanket that was purple, put some drops of lavender on the blanket put the container in the drawer with some silk flowers in purple. Seth’s ashes were safe in the drawer in their purple cocoon.
They stayed there for a while until I decided to have a memorial glass ring made from a little part of the ashes. I sent away the ashes and waited for the ring…… I thought the ring would make me feel better but when it arrived it didn’t…. I was naïve enough in my grief to think that a ring would make things OK. I had an odd relationship with the ring for a while, but it has been on my finger for the last 4 and half years. Seth is literally with me all the time.
The ashes stayed in the drawer… encased in a lavender purple cocoon. The cocoon was only opened when I went on the charity trek to the Great Wall of China, when I took some of Seths ashes with me to be scattered from the highest point on the wall. It was a poignant, sad, inspiring moment shared with Charlie the guide and a Mongolian lady from the local village.
After that a little bit of Seth’s ashes has been deposited in all the places I visited, the places that were on our future travel list. And in 2017 I finally fulfilled Seth’s wish of scattering some of his ashes in the Forum in Rome. Rome was our city, it was his favourite place to visit and he adored just sitting in the Forum.
Seth’s ashes now sit in a beautiful hand made purple jar on the bookcase, with our wedding photograph, a trinket box, and always with a bunch of flowers usually roses. Seth is part of my everyday life and that feels right.
There is another way, that Seth is memorialised and its in the work that I have done to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer and work on end of life care. All that work has been done in Seth’s name, it has over the last four years created a legacy, a legacy of care, compassion and change. It is #sethslegacy.
Many people contact me to say they are having a cup of tea in Seth’s mug, they have flowers in Seth’s vase, or that they can’t wait to buy a Stan the snowman in Seth’s memory. They also tell me how impactful Seth’s and my story has been, the biggest compliment came from a palliative care consultant who said that Homeward Bound has taught her “all she knows about life, love and death” that’s a humbling statement.
Seth lives on every day, his love, spirit and humour are always with me, he is always with me, it feels like all that has been achieved since his death is our joint achievement … #sethslegacy is the result of both our efforts.
I did make sure that Seth wishes were fulfilled no marker, no stone, just to be remembered in the hearts of the people who loved him. I also made sure that Seth’s memorialisation is positive, vibrant and it makes a difference, if it was a colour it would be purple, if it was a smell it would smell like lavender, if it had a mood it would be positive and that is Seth’s Legacy too.
Seth’s legacy is my way of honouring Seth it isn’t a marker, a gravestone, name on a bench or in a book, its personal, its vibrant, it challenges peoples thinking, it makes a positive difference and Seth lives on in my heart … I will love him with all my heart forever.
This year its five years since Seth died as part of building #sethslegacy I am asking people to pledge to do #something4seth in November to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer. You can make your pledge here .