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Maeve's Ashes Day

Ashes Day Speech: Frank
Ashes Day Speech: Robyn

Three months after she died, Maeve's ashes were put in a sweets drawer and community remembered her in song and story.

Family and school friends gathered in the Quaker Forest to climb trees, play music, and remember Maeve. Schoolfriends decorated a mahogany drawer from an old sweets shop with paintings of Paradise and quilting, and Maeve's ashes were placed in it.

Ashes Day Program (pdf, 221KB)

Ashes Day Speech: FrankBack to top

It's lovely to have this gathering… for whatever reason… it is just a great gathering and its lovely to have so many people… and the energy that has come to our house since Maeve’s death, especially from the school, has been just lovely…The school has been a solid connection which has been holding us in a particular kind of way: metaphorically but at the same time very solid and very real… which has been enormously helpful to Robyn and Tara and me as we move forward through this period.

One of the things that I am aware of is that a lot of deaths happen in people's lives and they may not have the opportunity to share what they need to or when they need to and to have a proper… farewell. We are very fortunate to have people all around us and to have these opportunities... so if anyone would like to share something either about Maeve or from their own lives then there is a space here and they are welcome to come and share it.

If you haven’t had an opportunity to have a look at the Ashes Box, you should do so and see the way in which the children have decorated it…

You may know about the extra dimension to Maeve’s last dream, in which she was to be accompanied on her final journey by her friends “Nut and Net”…

(In her vision they were two cats… but when we were on holidays in January, we found in the book Man and his Symbols that Nut is the Sky Goddess, over reaching the whole world.... but also painted on the inside of Egyptian coffins, to protect the soul of the dead person in its journey to the after life. Net is an even more ancient Egyptian archetypal goddess: the goddess of weaving.. to empower the soul on its journey to its next life)

Although we don’t understand the mystery of death, we certainly feel that Maeve’s death has a meaning and that she was accompanied by powerful energies, for want of a better word, to wherever it is that we do go when we die.

One of the things I have been reflecting on during this period of learning to cope, is to think of what I understand about death.

We live in an age in which the structures of religion that supported people in the past through deaths like Maeve’s don’t work as well for people as they once did: it is as though we are moving into some new place in which we have to find some meaning inside ourselves, or find our own journey… That is why this is so lovely to me: this feels like a living honouring of Maeve’s life and of her death.

I have been thinking about my own sense of wherever it is we go:

First of all I have a sense that we do have a place to go.

One of the indicators comes from the work of CJ Jung, whom I greatly admire. [He spent his life thinking about the nature and architecture of the psyche and the probability of areas of this that were continuous between people and across time, his feeling about dreams was that they often had a preparatory role, helping us in the transformation between what we are now and what we are becoming.] When he looked at the dreams of people who were about to die, he found no indication that there was to be a termination of consciousness but rather that there would be a continuation of consciousness, and he concluded that it was likely that consciousness in some form would extend beyond the transformation of death.

Also I think that I accept that the world that we live in is what some people refer to as a “limited ego consciousness”, in which we see only a little bit of what reality is: in our limited vision we think that everything is finite and that each one of us is finite.

I accept, although I haven’t had the experience of it myself, that a greater reality is that we are all joined together in some greater thing. Traditionally this was called God, now in modern times the word God carries a lot of meanings that don’t necessarily reflect that greater thing. Some people call it the “Ground of all Being”.
Some spiritual people feel that with death or no death, we are all rooted in that ground of being and whether Maeve was here physically or not here, we are all rooted together with her and I accept that, although I think that one of the things her death has done is to make me want to look for the experience of that a bit deeper: I hope that is going to be one of the trends of my life from now on.

I miss Maeve deeply like Robyn does. I find that I love the times that I have opportunities to talk about her. It is one of the best things, just to tell stories about Maeve and to talk about her with other people. It makes me feel her aliveness right there as we are talking about her. In some sense I am saying goodbye to Maeve but in another sense she is always, as Robyn says, “in Robyn and Robyn is in her”, and I hope that also applies to me!- and I’m sure it does, and I’m sure it applies to you all as well…

I also wanted to mention something about the experience for boys in terms of their relationship with Maeve. Girls are so much more social and able to come together with each other and talk about what has happened and do the art work and the creativity. But for boys in our society it is a more lonely kind of journey. Boys tend to think about the stuff themselves.

I know there were many boys in our school and elsewhere who had a deep relationship with Maeve.

And I just want them to know that that space is honoured in me, that that is a lovely thing.

Some boys that I know have spoken to me about their relationship with Maeve and others haven’t but I know that they have had a deep connection with her and I think that is the most wonderful thing…

(A moment’s silence)…

There might be quite a few of you out there, because… One of the great surprises to me about Maeve was that despite her social shyness: you know she had this rebellious character that she put out at school which rejected rules and all that, but she was quite shy and a bit reticent in social situations, whether with adults or with children - but the staggering thing was that when she got in with a boy or a couple of boys, suddenly she was a different personality and…she just turned it on completely…it was amazing and scary to see her in action!

So as I said, there might be a lot more of you out there than I am aware of!

I am reluctant to bring this to a close because it is such a lovely occasion and it is kind of - another stage in our grieving for Maeve, and like everything else that has happened, I don’t want to leave it behind because it is…one of the last threads connecting her to us…

But we will go on to the next stage because that is where life takes us and we will have plenty more opportunities for sharing…

Ashes Day Speech: RobynBack to top

First I want to say how much I like being here in our Forest surrounded by so many different energies and children and people of various generations…There are three tawny frogmouths [owls] down on the ridge, for those who didn’t see them earlier… I haven’t seen them since the children were smaller…you know how they pretend they are sticks when people are nearby… they used to hang out on these branches here above the play-fort, and the children would be tearing around, and the little youngster frogmouths would be busy trying to look like sticks but desperate to see what was going on—so they would nearly fall off the branch…I like all this melee: its quite life-giving energy…

This period has been a bit harder and sadder for me… because, it takes a long… you know, you always would like to see Maeve just come bouncing round the corner wouldn’t you – and getting used to the fact that she isn’t going to in that way…and getting used to opening yourself to “that of Maeve within” instead of having her physical presence… I’ll tell you about something that has been helpful in this…

One day when Maeve was about 6, she said to me in the car at the traffic lights, out of the blue, “Mummy you don’t need to worry about dying, because I’ll always be in you and you’ll always be in me…” I was taken aback, but you know how it is. I told her that was how I saw things too, and I just stored it away … I think that is one of the ways we continue to have a relationship with those whom we have lost which is by, opening ourselves to that of them within.

When you are too caught up in the “why did she die?” or “oh its so terrible” then it stops you opening up to “that of Maeve” within and I certainly often have a sense of Maeve bouncing round inside me and also of her quiet sense of wonder of love: and I hope that we might all be able to touch something of that, all of our days…

I wanted to share this picture which was came out of Sunday School when Maeve was three. I had created an obstacle course to illustrate the Psalm, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” There were chairs they had to walk stepping-stones on, and I had set up a cardboard box as a tunnel they had to crawl through as the “valley of the shadow of death” and a carpet at the end to represent the quiet waters we are led by... They had to go through the obstacle course blindfolded although I held one hand and another child held the other hand. Of course we let go for the “tunnel”, but were there to receive them when they emerged, it was just short. Maeve must have found this a tremendously powerful experience because she did many drawings in the following week. Her statements are written on the back of one: “there is one sheep aided eventually by Turtle, and another two sheep including a baby one, , and three ghosts (the blue dots) of which the Baby one is friendly… “It wasn’t completely dark…”…

And I realised: that is exactly where I am right now: I am in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

And I realised that her observations were true for me as well: You don’t go alone through there alone even though it is very dark and scary. She had all these “forces”, and there are things that can help us when we go through here, even though compared to other parts of our journey we feel blind and abandoned. It is a time about finding those forces within and around us.

And maybe it is of value all of us asking ourselves, what do we have call on inside to help me through these times, who am I beyond the attachments of my daily life...? Music and stories and art and friends do help us through these places, very powerfully, and I think we have a responsibility not only to choose carefully and to open ourselves to things and people of value, but also to share them with our children- that one of the things we can do for our children is to share these wonderful things: tunes, books, picture, people, so that they have a repertoire of helpful psychological lore built up to call on for the hard times they will certainly face, one way or another.

And then I asked myself, what did Maeve have to call on, when she had nightmares or met difficult parts of her Journey?

She re-read and re-read and re-read her favourite stories. The weekend that she died she was re-reading Rudyard Kipling’s Just-so stories: not the Cat Who Walked By Herself, but the one directly before it, : the Crab That Played with the Sea

They have travelled to the centre of the sea to find the crab, who has disappeared down after the beginning of the Making of the World. And it says, I’ll see if I can manage this, “The little girl daughter is sitting quietly in the middle of the canoe. She knows she is quite safe with her Daddy.” She may have been reading those very words at the lunch picnic spot before she died. And she would have been quite safe with her Daddy, of course, too, if she had stayed quietly “in the middle of the canoe”, but of course, that was not our daughter, our daughter was a girl who wanted to explored the edges of the universe, and although you can keep children from the edge of the road, you sometimes can’t stop them if they are that determined to go to see the edge of the universe…

But the point is that Maeve perceived herself as safe at the time of her death, she was looking in the opposite direction and she died feeling absolutely and utterly safe and happy and loved. And that brings us great comfort.

The second book she has been gathering sustenance from lately is the CS Lewis Chronicles of Narnia, which she brought with her overseas in August/September.

She loved the God-Lion Aslan: both his character in the book, and the energy she associated with him, and his picture on the cover of the Chronicles made her feel wonderful and safe.

She left two bookmarks in it: the first a plain blue one and the second, this amazing stained glass image of the Holy Spirit from St Peters, which she had chosen and bought in Rome when we were there.

The first bookmark was at the scene in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in which Lucy has emerged from the wardrobe and has told them all these things which don’t fit everyday reality and the children are trying to work out what to make of it. The Professor reassures them that it is pure Logic, there are only three options. Either she is lying, which she isn’t, or she is mad, which she isn’t, or she is telling the truth, so it must be the truth. Now, a child psychiatrist friend of mine tells me that that scene is famous, that children adore it because of its validation of the fantasy worlds they love so much, and of course Maeve was in the middle of that, writing on her Christmas list which was signed, Maeve, Nut and Net, that “Nut and Net are my imaginary friends but they don’t like it when I call them so because they aren’t, so don’t tell them!”

The second bookmark marked the beginning of the last two chapters of the Voyage of the Dawn Treader: The Wonders of the Last Sea and The Very End of the World. As the children travel on the boat towards the end of the World, it is getting brighter and brighter and they need to eat less and less…(which reminds me of Maeve’s own fruitarian eating habits: In Mauritius she told me proudly that she had once eaten nothing but air for an entire week…I hadn’t noticed that particular week…air and chocolate and Minties, perhaps…) anyhow then they realise that the brightness is coming from lilies and soon it is all lilies and they abandon the ship and go on in a rowboat among the lilies, ahead they see an enormous glassy waterfall against the sky and through it, behind it, they can see Aslan’s country.

And finally they turn back, only the little mouse Reepicheep goes on through the waterfall, and I will end by reading from there because it contains the feeling that I got from Maeve in the last few weeks of her life, in which I sense that she was somehow yearning for the next world:

“They did not even try to stop him, because everything felt as though it had been fated or had happened before…he put down his oar and took off his sword…Then he bade them goodbye, trying to be sad for their sakes, but he was (and I can barely read this) quivering with happiness.

I think we need to be happy for Maeve, for she is a great little spirit and we trust that she is happy and joyous where she is now…

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