At twelve noon, precisely, my Mum appeared by the car. She was being carried by one of the staff, and her sudden arrival came as a bit of a jolt. Not in her birthday finest, nor even in an elegant urn, but as a few scoops of ash inside a degradable cardboard tube. The family assembled and followed her down the hillside.
We stepped off the gravel onto the earthy slopes of the burial ground. A few weeks ago this whole area would have been a mudbath, while in a few months it'll no doubt be a carpet of green. For now, however, only the occasional snowdrop and budding crocus reminded us that spring might almost be here.
A sandy hole had already been dug in the topsoil, not too shallow, not too deep. Two of us turned down the unexpected opportunity to fill it, before my brother bravely stepped up to lower the cardboard receptacle into the earth. From Enfield to Norfolk, my Mum's life had reached its final resting place.
We paused to compose ourselves while the cavity was filled in, then returned to the graveside with some flowers and a trowel. I selected something yellow and tried my best to plant it into the ground. She'd have smiled to see me attempt some gardening, and probably pointed out that I'd buried the stems far too deep, but never mind.
By the time we'd all finished, this previously insignificant spot in the wood was marked by a flurry of temporary colour. Eventually there'll be a carved wooden post to mark the spot, although nothing quite so ostentatious as some of the sculpted creatures and chiselled memorials embedded in the surrounding undergrowth.
A cold wind rustled through the pine trees, blowing autumn's last leaves across the forest floor. Nothing in this woodland burial ground is permanent, everything decays, because that's the sustainable funereal future. We trod carefully back to the path and left nature to take its course.