Rempstone moved its church some centuries ago. Its old graveyard remains behind scraggly hedges in the centre of a field, a yew tree breaking through the box tombs.
My father Cyril Goodman now lies at the edge of the new churchyard. It wasn’t the easiest relationship in the last years. In his last moments I sat with him alone and held his hand as it turned blue. At his funeral, his last wife stood by the grave in a black fur coat, threw in a long stemmed red rose, and then retired to their house for the reception. I stayed behind and wept.
Lil was a constant even as our family changed. She took the bus from Leicester to clean a succession of family homes, and kept on coming. This last home was the Old Rectory, where Oliver Cromwell once went to school. On wet days, widow and Lil came to the grave, widow with an umbrella and Lil with a bucket. The widow held the umbrella while Lil knelt and scrubbed the headstone clean.
The gold lettering has worn off so it’s hard to read. Its headline is ‘Darling Wife of Mary’ and maybe that was so, though even then history was editing out the earlier times.
I once found the gravestone obscured by moss so when I drive near now, every few years, I bring along a scrubbing brush and bucket just in case.