Today would have been my father’s 73rd birthday so I headed out to watch the sun rise over Bournemouth beach, where my mother, my girlfriend and I scattered his ashes one wet October morning in 2009.
This is now something of a place of pilgrimage for me. A groyne, like any other on Bournemouth’s west beach, holding a significance that nobody watching would guess. It makes me think about how many other people have places like this, ordinary places with ordinary functions, yet for those individuals holding far greater meaning – a milestone in their life and a boundary between life and death.
My father hadn’t stipulated in his Will anywhere in particular for his remains to be scattered. I remember several years before he died, in the days when everything was normal, he talked about wanting his ashes scattered at a spot in the sea far off the southern coast of Norway, where his father’s submarine had been sunk in the Second World War. We couldn’t afford to make this a reality, so my mother and I chose a spot on the shore of Bournemouth beach as the next best thing. After all, who knows where the currents could take you?
Two years to the day since we had taken my father’s ashes to this place, my girlfriend and I returned to send the ashes of my mother on the same journey.
I was born and brought up in Bournemouth, and although I left when I went to university I still came back regularly. Now, I only really go back to make these brief connections with the past. It’s strange how the significance that places hold can shift as time passes. Growing up, the beach was always a place for fun, for gently baking yourself on the sands or throwing yourself around in the surf. Now, my gaze is always drawn to the sea, to the waves as they mount their endless assault on the shore. A beach can be a gateway to many journeys; a dividing line between the known and the unknown. A boundary between life and death.
In memory of Frank Dixon (1939 – 2009) and Cathy Dixon (1956 – 2011)