20 July 2023
6 min read

I'm sharing this here for those who have been following my very common place human story of losing a parent. At the same time, having a parent who approaches death with the sanguinity and acceptance that my father (and my mother, 9 years ago) showed, and being able to talk deeply about the process and (with his full permission) to share about the journey, is not so normal and from the feedback I've been getting, can be important and helpful for others. So, here we go, next chapter; the funeral.

A bit more context: Our journey with my father has been immersive as he came to live with us 2 and a bit years ago. We have had the privilege and responsibility of being alongside him as he did his best to live life fully whist approaching his death. There are several previous posts which describe the journey including the one about the film we made together. To find them search using "Susannah".

Ya'Acov has been deeply generous and strong in being so hospitable and kind in the process which has demanded so much of all of us, and at the same time has given us all so much. I have witnessed all of us, including Dad, growing, learning and becoming more present to each other and to lie during these last years together. I would not change anything.

Ya'Acov and my father, Richard Darlington (a while back!)

Yesterday (on the 19th July) we had Dad's funeral, and I could not have dreamed of a better send off and celebration of this man who I am proud to call my father. 

Richard's coffin decorated with postcards of his art which he loved to share

It was joyous and sad, both in the church and at the garden party-wake. The sun light danced around us, the branches blew in the breeze above his coffin (pictured) and we ate, talked, laughed and cried together. Then we had a sharing circle where many people added their voices to what had been shared in the church. Wonderfully, people were there who could speak to different eras of Dad's life, both professional and personal. Beautiful and very special. Then we ate the best ice cream in honour of Richard's love of it.

At the wake in the garden, a circle of sharing before the ice cream

And then the moment came for the bearers to lift his coffin once more and we accompanied it to the crematorium where the fire released the physical structure of Richard's body, giving all those molecules and minerals back to the planet. I think this was the moment of the most intensity for me. The actual giving back of this dear body. Quite literally "ashes to ashes, dust to dust" When my brother picked up the packages the next morning, they were still warm. It feels good to engage with the reality of this thing. Not easy - but good: real, challenging and awakening.

Our last step will be the "planting" of his ashes (as he wanted) in two places, in our "ancestor's orchard" down here in Devon, close to the bench in his memory and with his epitaph: "All together now!" and up north with Mum's grave, where there will also be a ceremony for his northern community. A rainbow bridge with two feet planted in the good earth.

Now I am "breathing in the still" and coming to rest after a hugely emotional, splendid and demanding time. 
Big gratitude for all the beautiful messages and for everyone who came to the funeral and shared in the celebration of Richard's life, the mystery of this metamorphosis, and commending his spirit to god.

Tuesday 1st August

Having returned from the amazing Wibracje festival in Poland, we completed the ceremony of Dad's funeral, by burying half of his ashes down here on our land in the ancestor's orchard, (as he wished) and half were committed by my brother to my mother's grave up north. 

Up north, where half of Dad's ashes were interred with Mum's grave.

This was part of a memorial service with Dad's and Mum's local community in the church that they were so deeply part of, and in which Mum had her funeral. This felt so important, to honour that community and how they loved him, as well as how he had loved them.

We buried them in a hole with petals from the flowers he cultivated and which were so important to him in his dying month. The place is next to a rose which is associated with my Mum and which mysteriously appeared there, next to his memorial bench on which will be his epitaph.

We buried the two halves of the ashes (weighing more than I expected, about the weight of a small baby) at precisely the same moment. The southern location is on the edge of Dartmoor, and the northern one is on the edge of the Peak District. I was moved and also relieved as we all experienced the truth of: "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust". I felt this last offering back to the earth as a sacrament, honouring the movement of life. And was surprised to feel Dad's benevolent warm presence all around. I feel his love within the fabric of my being, but also all around. I feel his spirit is happy to be "back with the land."

I asked my brother to take a jam jar of earth from Mum's grave (she died 9 years ago) when it was opened up for internment of Dad's ashes, and we have added these "molecules of Mum" to Dad's ashes 'grave' and welcomed this symbolic and probably actual physical "molecules of her love" here to join Dad's on this land. Their "physical substance vibrations" are re-united at both ends of their rainbow bridge, and we rest in a sense of completion, peace and goodness.

The resting place "down south" with a little statue they both loved

We've been calling this the "rainbow bridge" and guess what, a couple of hours later, we saw a perfect long rainbow orientated north-south. These are little things and so much chance can be involved. At the same time, I am touched, and it feels significant to me that the rainbow came when there was molecules of Mum and Dad in both resting spots.

A card we received at this time got it exactly!

What a journey. Thank you all for being part of this through your kind witnessing.

Bless us all,
Susannah Darling Khan

Here is the order of service with words from many people...

Susannah Darling Khan

Susannah's life is dedicated to the quest for a world where beauty and compassion flourish....