People don’t like thinking about death.

At least they certainly don’t like talking about it.

But that may be a recent thing.

My mum’s generation didn’t mind talking about it.

When I was in my twenties my dad got cancer.

It was terminal and he was in hospital.

I’d never had anyone really close to me die before, so I didn’t know how his death would affect me.

I thought I’d better take care of the arrangements while he was alive, in case I wasn’t able to afterwards.

I told Mum I was going to get Dad a grave in the local cemetery.

Mum said she’d like a double grave so that, later on, she could be buried with Dad.

My Aunt Polly was at Mum’s at the time, having a cup of tea.

Auntie Polly was Mum’s sister and she’d married Dad’s brother, Uncle Fred, so the families were close.

Auntie Polly asked me if I could get a grave for her and Uncle Fred next to Mum and Dad.

So they’d all be together.

I said I’d see if I could.

Then they both said, what about Uncle Harry?

Uncle Harry was their younger brother who lived nearby.

He never married and, being older sisters, they felt very protective.

They didn’t want him left out.

They asked me if I could get a grave for Uncle Harry next to them.

So I went to the cemetery and asked if I could choose three plots: a single and two doubles.

I didn’t like the newer part of the cemetery, it was near the bypass and a bit noisy.

But there were three plots together in the older, quieter part of the cemetery.

So I put a deposit on those.

Then I brought Mum and Auntie Polly over to see what they thought of them.

I said “Look Mum, you and Dad will be just here, Auntie Polly and Uncle Fred will be next door, then Uncle Harry will be on the end.

There’s a nice tree here so there’s lots of shade, and there’s a bench under it, so you can come and visit Dad. What do you think?”

Auntie Polly and Mum both said they liked their spots.

Mum pointed to a small brick building nearby and said “I tell you what I like best, the toilets are just there”.

That stopped me.

I laughed and I said “Don’t worry about that Mum, you won’t be getting up to use the toilet”.

Mum frowned, she said “I’m not thinking about me, I’m thinking about the people coming to visit me.

If they get caught short at least they’ll have somewhere to go.”

Now that’s a mum’s mum.

Even after she’s dead she’s worried about visitors needing the loo.

But what I liked best was the matter-of-fact way we discussed it.

Nowadays of course, if anything is controversial we don’t talk about it.

We sweep it under the carpet.

Just in case, God forbid, it should make us uncomfortable.

So we avoid talking about things.

And that can’t be good.


Stopping talking about things is the first stage in stopping thinking about things.