This blog's poems are from my published poetry book Star Steeds and Other Dreams: The Collected Poems (CFZ Press: Bideford, 2009) and are © Dr Karl P.N. Shuker, 2009. Except for author-credited review purposes, it is strictly forbidden to reproduce any of these poems elsewhere, either in part or in entirety, by any means, without my written permission.

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Wednesday, 23 October 2013


This morning, I visited the newly-completed gravestone of my mother, Mary Doreen Shuker (1921-2013), which has taken 6 months to prepare. Standing there in the solitude of the cemetery, it all still seemed so unreal, that the vibrant little lady always so full of life, of living, and of love was gone, her time in this world marked only by the stone and grave there before me, beautiful and elegant though they were, just like she had always been. Come the closing of December, I shall not grieve the passing of 2013, but I shall forever grieve the passing within it of my mother, whose light is gone from my world until that joyous day when we will be reunited forever. The following lines are ones that I wrote yesterday evening, after I'd previously attempted to visit Mom's grave a few hours earlier, only to discover to my dismay that the cemetery had already closed.


This afternoon at around 4.10 pm I received a phone call from the memorial stone masons informing me that Mom's gravestone with her inscription was at last complete and in place upon her grave. The weather wasn't good, so I decided not to visit straight away, but then at around 4.50 pm it improved and the sun came out. So I psyched myself up to be ready, then got the car out and drove to the cemetery, only to find that it was locked. It turns out that from October to April it closes at 4.30 pm, instead of at 7.00 pm as it does for the rest of the year. I didn't know that.

Standing there, outside the cemetery with its chained gates separating me from Mom's grave, was heavily symbolic for me - it is after all a representation of the real situation that I endure every day. I stand in this life, and Mom in the next, so I am separated from her by the great divide of death, the chained gates through which I cannot pass while still alive. Seeing those gates brought it all home to me so much. Of course, I know that I have only to wait until tomorrow to be able to walk through the unchained cemetery gates and be with Mom's mortal self at her grave, whereas I have to wait for the rest of my life before I can transcend death to be with her in spiritual immortality.

Her gravestone was the last thing that I could organise for Mom, and I hope that it is elegant and beautiful, just as she always was. Mom never liked the taking of flowers to graves, as they soon fade and die, or are stolen by others, so I've instructed that a pair of multicoloured bouquets be engraved onto her gravestone, so that she will always have flowers that will never fade, never die, and never be stolen.

Visting her completed grave for the first time will in a sense mark the final footstep in my own personal Via Dolorosa, the sorrowful path that I have trodden for the past 29 weeks since she passed away while everything associated with her funeral and burial was being organised by me for her and was then being carried out, stage by stage. My grief will not be abated by my visit, but there is nothing more that I can do for her now in a direct, physical way, except to make something of what is left of my life - something good, something worthwhile - if I can, as I know how much she would want me to do that, and also to ensure that her name and memory live on, as my personal tribute to a truly wonderful mother and the best person I shall ever know.

Mom is at peace; may my visit to her final resting place on Earth bring me, if still too early for peace yet, at least some degree of acceptance, of understanding regarding our mortality in this present world, in this present life, and also some reaffirment of hope that there is a new life and an everlasting reunion with those we love beyond it, beyond those chained gates that stand before us all during our time here.

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