Delia's ashes

December 6th, 20013. What remained of Delia's once lovely body was consigned to the furnace in Inverness's Crematorium. She had expressly forbade the presence of any but the funeral director, so we had said our last goodbyes as her coffin left the sanctity of Aultbea's Church of Scotland.

She had asked also that half of her ashes be scattered in the sea at Mellon Charles - one of our very favourite short walks -  the other half off that pebbled beach where once her mother's beach hut stood; where once my lovely woman spread herself out to the sun.

February 27th was windy raw with sunshine between the wintery showers. As I undertook my sad, sad task on the little beach at Mellon Charle sa cloud of seagulls arrived to circle, circle, crying overhead. With my companion, her most longstanding friend Brenda I stood looking up, wondering whether ... well, you know what. You don't need me to say there's more to heaven and earth than we can ever know.

Today I wrote this poem ...

Delia’s Ashes

This pact she’d made with nature for herself,
Not me nor thee, for she is ours no more.
And here’s her place, this sandy pebbled shelf,
This rocky arm flung round an ochre shore
Where we had played in pleasures’ timeless store.

I know she feels the mighty swell; eternal sea
In life, in death, she loves the brine-filled air
There is no other place that now she wants to be
For here she lives and plays again through ages fair
Saved from her pain, from harm, beyond all care.

I take her ash down to the tide, unscrew the urn,
Tip out, part spill it to the sea: no dust to dust,
For her, my girl; to salty water she’ll return.
It was my lover’s wish, between us there's still trust
So cold the rain - then turn for home I must.

I go in silence, stumbling on the heath’ry path.
There was no bad in her, the lady was my all
But as I suffer in her earthly, watery aftermath.
The snow-birds drift aloft below grey winter’s pall,
‘She’s ours,’ faint comes their melancholy call.

(I remember it so well … last Hogmanay …
As midnight nears the piper holds the stage,
In Gaelic swirl to bring in such a bitter, solo age.
Our glasses touch and so, two pairs of misted eyes,
‘Though she is soon to leave she knows the prize:
Her final precious gift, my comfort, certain truth,
Just this: that love and good alone surviveth death.)

Oh Dee, you’ll be within each greening Spring,
You are all dusty Summer’s calm fecundity,
Autumnal mists will always find you lingering
White Winters will know nothing of our suffering.
Yes, there shall be such peace, this beach for you,
To which I’ll some day make my journey, too.

Bryan Islip
February 28th 2014; on the disposal in sea Loch Ewe at Mellon Charles of one half of Delia’s ashes, the other half to be consigned to the Solent.

1 comment:

  1. Another amazingly beautiful, sad, inspiring poem. Your wife has left you the gift of poetry.


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