Character Number Thirteen

And then there was Rev. Kenneth Stanfill.

My mother, Jessica Wadd was always a country girl, liking nature in all its forms. She was born in 1896 in the relatively small town of Kettering but moved with her father, Tom Wadd and her sister, Annie and brother, Wilf to Kingscliffe in about 1905.  The whole family lived in the water-mill where a flat stone with another stone on top rotated by the force of the Nene river to grind corn for local farmers.  The family moved to Ailsworth about 1915 and Tom Wadd became a baker. The locations I have mentioned were all in Northamptonshire but today are in Cambridgeshire. My mother met my father,  Albert Reginald, “Reg”, Glover and they were married in September 1921 in Sutton, the smaller village where my father lived with his two sisters and eight brothers.  They moved into number 7 Council Houses,  Ailsworth where I was born in January 1927.  As I grew up I was always in our garden helping my mother.  We had gooseberry bushes,  apple and cherry trees as well as a vegetable and flower garden.  We had fresh flowers in the house most days and my mother knew the location of the best wild flowers.  She would often take me to pick cowslips for her father to make cowslip wine and we went mush-rooming quite often.  In Spring we would go ‘up to the woods’, the near-by forest area, and pick primroses and bluebells, sometimes picking more than we could carry home.  There was one particular opening in the woods where the bluebells looked like a carpet and I had heard my mother say, whenever we went there, that she wanted to be cremated and have her ashes strewn in that lovely part of th woods.

 

In September, 1950, my mother, aged 54 suddenly died and we had a service for her in Castor Church, the church that served Ailsworth, Upton, Marholm and other smaller villages. With my father dying in 1949 and me as an only son, I was left alone in our house.  The day after the service, I had a visit from a pompous and not very polite Reverand Kenneth  Stanfill and another minister from Castor Church.  They informed me, that not only was God shocked but the entire village was up in arms because there had never been a cremation in our village and my mother was going to be the first to be cremated.  They had taken the liberty of putting the cremation on hold at the city crematorium.  I was cajoled and brow-beaten and in tears before my visitors had left but I was also  insulted and ordered the cremation to proceed the next day.  About three days later, the ceremonious clergy were at my door again.  They had just heard that it was my intention to scatter my mother’s ashes up in the woods.  I was told that the Bishop of Peterborough had ordered them to stop me from doing it at all costs.  More cajoling, more tears and I am sad to report that I was defeated and we settled by agreeing to have the urn of ashes buried in her father’s grave in the Castor Church yard.  This was done, without me being invited or even knowing when it was done and without ceremony.  I was told that the grave digger and the young clergy were the only ones present.  I never heard another word from Rev. Stanhill but as I grew older I often felt like stirring things up but I never did.  I do, and always will, feel that I let my Mother down but my defense is that I was up against a greater force.   Sorry Mom.

3 thoughts on “Character Number Thirteen

  1. I didn’t know that about your Mom’s ashes. I love that she was a country girl and loved gardening and flowers, maybe that’s where I get that love of nature.

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  2. Me, too, Mel! I had no idea. Maybe we should take some dirt from near the grave and find that field and do a proper ceremony. I’m sorry it didn’t work out, Dad. The timing of your story is quite amazing, as my very good friend Sarah Wiggins in Jacksonville, whose Mom passed away almost a year ago, just posted beautiful photos of their old house and dock on the river across from Colonial Point and Empire Point (really Pottsburg Creek). That was the Wiggins home and the location of many a gathering of friends, some arriving by canoe (me and others) who remain dear friends over 40 years later. She took the last of her Mom’s ashes and went and met the owners of the house, who have been there about 36 years and love the place. They allowed Sarah to sprinkle the last of her Mom’s ashes from the dock into the river, as the sunset over the river. It’s all on Facebook with very nice comments from my “friends for life” and talk of the love that keeps us so close after all these years. Alas, we all miss Betsy, who only lived until her earlier 30s, but taught us all about love and was born on Christmas Day.

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