10.5.13

To be a Pilgrim




Unusual as it may seem, I would like to share the service for Andy's Celebration Day with my friends and blog readers. Andy was a big part of this blog, though I never in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I would be blogging his memorial service. It was held on April 27th, a week after what would have been his 42nd birthday. The site was the South Shropshire Remembrance Park, a natural woodland burial site and the perfect place to lay Andy's ashes to rest. That, and organising the event has been very gruelling, so I have been fairly quiet online. I had so much help from many dear friends and Andy's company, Asda. If there is anything blessing in all this, it is that I have such strong support from so many sources. Frank, Andy's beloved friend, built the beautiful wooden casket from which he poured Andy's ashes into the hole with the tree roots. True friends and family came from all corners of the country to say farewell to Andy and prop me up as I grieved all over again. The Asda colleagues from both his old and new store,  came in droves to weep from their loved and valued colleague. The young cricketers from our old village, who also wept for a lost friend and hero. Two of them poured beer in with the ashes, and a chunk of the last cake I will ever bake for my darling, along with a fossil shell that Andy found on one of our many Cotswolds walks. 



Andy's younger brother filled in the earth around the young birch sapling, chosen because it was Andy's favourite tree. His ashes (not to mention the beer and cake) will nourish the young birch and will become part of the tree itself in time, something he would have totally approved of.

The perfect non-religious service was composed and written by our stalwart friend Debs (the host for my recent workshop) and read by her. Such love as was shown at that peaceful glade in the Shropshire Hills, I will never forget. 

The service

Welcome 
Finding the Still Centre.
From love we came; In love we live and move and have our being; To love we shall return. Source of all love, the oneness of all things, You are the silence at the heart of all that is. You are the stillness when the rains have gone. You are the ebb and flow of calm waters, you are the crashing waves of storm. You are the long dark night and you are the first light of dawn. You are the mystery at our beginning before breath is drawn. You are the quiet at our endings when all is said and done. You are the sacredness of letting be when nothing more can come. You are the solitude after the cling of love’s embrace. You are the risk of love that we take, for all that we might lose. And though the loss of Andy was unchosen and we have no strength of our own, Give us grace when the time is right, To leave him in the fold of your care And let go into your peace Where all is one And only love remains.
Short silence

Be alive to us as our hearts are opened with sadness, For a man so full of love and life has been taken. In our sorrow, contain us; In our shock and grief, comfort us. Meet us in our anger, Hear the questions that have no answers, And in our dark and lonely times, bring hope. May we have the courage To leave Andy’s ashes here, wrapped in the earth, And when we are ready, the grace to move on into new life.


                                   'He Who Would Valiant Be'

He who would valiant be ’gainst all disaster, Let him in constancy follow the Master. There’s no discouragement shall make him once relent His first avowed intent to be a pilgrim.
Who so beset him round with dismal stories
Do but themselves confound - his strength the more is. No foes shall stay his might; though he with giants fight, He will make good his right to be a pilgrim.
Since, Lord, Thou dost defend us with Thy Spirit, We know we at the end, shall life inherit. Then fancies flee away! I’ll fear not what men say, I’ll labour night and day to be a pilgrim.


Reading by Gretel, quoting the art critic Max Wykes-Joyce, an art critic writing in a catalogue of the artist Dora Carrington and her  love for Lytton Strachey. 
'True love, and how fortunate are those few who experience it, is all embracing, all encompassing. It allows of every aberration and eccentricity, of every folly and all manner of wisdom and remains immovable and inviolable, the perfect still centre of the two who love.'


At the Planting of the Tree As we let go of Andy, held in a box made by the hands of a man he loved and called friend, we return his body to the goodness of the earth, to grow again, to become an element of the birch itself: earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Andy’s ashes are poured out into the earth, along with a bottle of his favourite beer and some of Gretel’s homemade cake, which he loved.
There will be a time of silence to follow when those who wish to may pass by the tree, place some earth in the hole – or not, as preferred  – pause a moment, and then go back to their place in the glade.  The tree will then be planted





Andy, we have laid you down now in the warm, dark ground Where life and death and new life are woven deep. May you rise in light, and rest in bright peace, This day and always. (Amen)

Cold blows the wind, now your love is in the earth, But though Andy is taken from your eyes, may you find him in the heaven all about you. May you see him in the light-streaked skies and the company of trees. May you hear him in birdsong and down by the sea. May you feel him in dreams and places you have been, And know him with you always now his spirit dances free. 





And did those feet


And did those feet in ancient time. Walk upon England’s mountains green: And was the holy Lamb of God, On England’s pleasant pastures seen!
And did the Countenance Divine, Shine forth upon our clouded hills? And was Jerusalem builded here, Among these dark Satanic Mills?


Bring me my Bow of burning gold; Bring me my Arrows of desire: Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold! Bring me my Chariot of fire!
I will not cease from Mental Fight, Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand: Till we have built Jerusalem, In England’s green and pleasant Land



Irish Blessing: May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face. May the rains fall soft upon your fields And until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of his hand. Amen.



At the end, when tears mingled with hugs, introductions and hellos to new and old friends, a mass picnic was held. So many happy blog posts have I written of walks we enjoyed, with little picnics being the high point, that it was the only thing to do and everyone entered into the spirit of it. 


 


And so after the sadness, came friendship, chat and food, eaten in the bosom of Shropshire, with a young birch sapling finding it's roots in a site of ancient woodland. Afterwards, many came to the Bottle and Glass, Andy's favourite pub and where we had our last really happy day together at the folk singing day. Beer (and more food) was consumed in quantity.

 


Now the beer is drunk, the talk is silent and I face up to the rest of my life without Andy, though he is in my heart forever. I will try to make it a good life.


54 comments:

Annie said...

What a beautiful personal post Gretel. I feel so very privilaged to have shared such a special moment with you. Sending you big hugs and lots of positive vibes to help get you through the difficult times ahead.
Annie xxx

Elizabeth Wix said...

A beautiful very moving remembrance with such lovely words. Sending much love and strength as you carry on.

acornmoon said...

Once agan Gretel, words fail me. Please know that I am thinking of you and sending my love. xxx

Celia Hart said...

And you will make it a good life...

...but if you need to sit down and have a little rest we'll all be there for you.

Sending hugs from Suffolk xx

Celia Hart said...
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Celia Hart said...
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Greenorchid said...

What a truly beautiful Celebration for a beautiful soul... True love is a rare and beautiful thing that will remain forever true... wishing you heart felt courage to live joyfully and sending hugs to you... Cx

Carol said...

Beautiful and moving. If we find true love and great friendship in this life then we are rich beyond measure.
Carol xx

The fabric of my life said...

Thank you so much for sharing this with us Gretel. It must have been such a hard post to write but it is very generous of you to let us be there with you. A beautiful memorial for a beautiful man. May he rest in peace and for you, my lovely, a good and, (in time), happy life, made happier by the friendships that have been strengthened by this tragedy xxx

Karen said...

Thank you for sharing this Gretel. A beautiful ceremony. You will never really say goodbye to him because he will always be with you. I'm sure he is so proud of you now for being strong. May the birch grow tall and reach for the sparkling sun beams and may you find peace and happiness on your future path. xx

Caroline B said...

Simply beautiful and absolutely perfect.I feel very privileged to have been allowed to share such an intimate and personal moment,thank you.
Caroline xxx

Kim said...

Beautiful and touching....blessings!

Natasha said...

Thankyou for sharing the service, and sorry I couldn't make it, but all my thoughts were with you.Andy was a fabulous person and through your words and your life you carry him with you. And your life will be good! xxx

Claire said...

Hey Gretel, so pleased you have shared this with all of us....thankyou.
I was just thinking about you yesterday.......

It sounds like the best possible farewell . A touching personal tribute, beautiful words written by Debs. Friends from all walks there to support and say goodbye speaks volumes in itself.....
I know you'll make it a good life and even more so

Love and hugs from Oz,


Claire X

Twiglet said...

A most fitting and perfect service Gretel. Thank you for sharing it with us. x Jo

Kari from Meadowview Farm said...

Gretel...such a remembrance few receive. May his memory be for a blessing....and may you find strength each day.
Kari

. said...

That is such a beautiful tribute to Andy's life, shows that he was/is so very blessed with all his friends and loved once. And his memory will live on for ever with each branch and leaf. Im sure you will have a beautiful life ahead of you and Andy will guid you through it (with cake in hand).
Sending you many hugs from cross the pond.

Wendy O'Brien Fibre Artist said...

Most beautiful words for a beautiful life. What a wonderfull celebration.xoxo

Grumpy Old Woman said...

Thank you so much for sharing this with us Gretel.....
xxxx

Vixen 307 said...

Thank you for sharing your journey with us. Wishing you love and light in the future. hugs Ginny

Eirlys Penn said...

A really beautiful tribute, Gretel. Thank you for sharing it. xx

ellen said...

Dearest Gretel,
It is indeed a beautiful tribute to Andy. I love the last picture of him.
Thinking of you and sending love...and yes, you will make a good life.

Over the Garden Wall said...

Dear Gretel,
I send my love.

Gerry Snape said...

Most beautiful time however sad such stunning words and hymns..how blessed to have such a memory of how he was loved...and loved you sweet Gretel. May God strengthen and enrich your future life. Love from tbhe potters house penketh.....alan and gerry xx

Gerry Snape said...

Most beautiful time however sad such stunning words and hymns..how blessed to have such a memory of how he was loved...and loved you sweet Gretel. May God strengthen and enrich your future life. Love from tbhe potters house penketh.....alan and gerry xx

Crafting Not Cleaning! said...

Thanks for sharing Gretel, it could so easily have been me writing this last year. Love from Shropshire too x

the veg artist said...

That is beautiful, Gretel. Thank you for sharing it. For a man who loved nature, it sounds as though you found a perfect resting place for Andy. The strength you have shown makes me feel that you will forge a good life for yourself.

Jess said...

What a wonderful service, so perfect and it looks as though the sun was shining for you too. The photos of you together when you were younger are so lovely, you can see the love you have for eachother even then. I'm sure Andy will be proud of such a wonderful tribute you've created. Lots of love to you Gretel.
Jess xx

lemonade kitty said...

Bless you, that can't have been an easy post to write but thank you for sharing such a beautiful service with us, lucey x

Nancy said...

I widh I could say something so profound that would make it all better. Thank you for sharing. I have come to know a little about you and about Andy from these blogs so for me it's fitting you kindly included us "blog" friends. A sadness shared is for me a sadness made a little easier althoguh it still is hard. My thoughts continue to be with you.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Tears here.
Much love your way.
xo

Annie @ knitsofacto said...

Such beautiful words. Love is all, really, isn't it.

Lo said...

What a gorgeous tribute and ceremony.
I love the idea of the tree, beer and cake. Perfect.

I have been thinking about you often and will continue to send love and hugs your way. Good luck, dear.
Please keep writing your blog so we can be in touch with you thru cyberspace.

Little Dotty Bird said...

Such a beautiful service...such beautiful words. thank you for sharing . My thoughts are with you. ♥

Gill Edwards said...

thats so moving and im so sorry for your loss. Im glad to hear you have good support around you though and i wish you all the best for the future.

Trailshome said...

Such a very appropriate way to say farewell to such a special person. We're so glad that so many came to share that with you. My heart aches for you, and I hope you can now find some measure of peace with your loss, and move forward in strength. Much love your way, Gretel.

Kim @ Lavender Fields Forever said...

BEAUTIFUL!

Charlotte said...

Have struggled to find the right words:

Thank you for letting us join you, seem the best ones.

Lynne said...
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Lynne said...

Beautiful Gretel. I love that ceremony and I love the idea of becoming one with earth & tree. I am so happy you have so many friends and good supports.... I have renovated a house in my time, and it is a LOT of work, so my heart has been with you from afar & wishing you well, both in your grief & work.

Peace Love Strength. May your life be beautiful and rich with loving friends and blessed for having had the love & time with your beloved Andy. I am truly sorry for your loss.

BumbleVee said...

Hugs my friend....

Veronica

xxx

Jill said...

Thank you for sharing this Gretel.

Barb Cady said...

What a truy beautiful ceremony you created for your dear heart. I wish I could find something to say, but think it was said.. From love we came.... and to love we will return. Bless you dear, thinking of you. x

the woolly dog said...

Thank you Gretel for sharing this personal farewell with us, we know it takes a lot of courage to tell people, take care, lots of love ♥

janet said...

Dear friend,
Thank you so much for sharing with those of us so very far away. What a lovely and fitting goodbye to a well loved man...he will be greatly missed by his family and friends. I know you will carry him in your heart forever and rightly so....as you loved him like no other could.

You have been on my mind daily. Sending much love and many cyber {{{hugs}}} to you. Please share a hug for dear Debs also. How lucky you are to have a friend like her.

Be well my friend,
Janet xox
The Empty Nest

Sue said...

A wonderful post.

Thank you for letting those of us who hardly know you and yet who hold you close in our hearts to share this special day.

May you go on through life knowing that you are thought of and watched over by all those who love and have loved you.

Sue xx

Kathi said...

Thank you for sharing Gretel.
A good life you will make and Andy will forever be right there with you in your heart. Much love ♥

joanna harling said...

Gretel, thank you for allowing those of us who did not know Andy as well as you did, to share the ceremony with its grand mix of memories collected from so many. It must have been hard for you and you are in my thoughts every dayxx

HOA Mgr Lady said...

Thank you for sharing with us the final services for your dear Andy. He was well loved. The torment of depression is so cruel. May Andy run careless int he flowers of Heaven.
Ruth in California

Jamile Shirley said...

Gretel,

What a precious gift you shared with us. Thank you. I imagine in a few years time, there will be a picnic under Andy's birch tree, complete with beer and cake. The ceremony was perfect and beautiful. I hope the newness of spring is allowing you breath and healing as it comes.

BIG hugs to you, my friend!

Becky said...

Dear Gretel

what a brave, beautiful and very moving tribute, ceremony and post. Thank you. I am lost for useful words to offer, but you are often in my thoughts,

Becky
xx



Lin said...

Wow. Incredible and beautiful service and memorial for Andy....and you as well.

You are in my prayers, Gretel.

Liza said...

What a beautiful way for Andy to rest, surrounded by love and nature. xx

Feltro em casa said...

Hello Gretel
Here is Malu, one Brazilian who bought your book teddybears (Etsy), remember?
Well, I always visit your blog and felt much from the bottom of my heart your terrible loss.
Now reading your post about the ceremony with the ashes ... it was very beautiful. Moved me again.
You surely will resume happiness in your life.
Kisses and hug tight
Malu from Brazil
Sorry my english, I'm using google translator