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.
Finding the Still Centre.
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.
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.