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Over the Easter break the family gathered together at my son’s home for a shared lunch followed by the planting of four trees. The previous weekend he and I had been to a tree nursery and bought a large kauri tree, a large pohutukawa tree and two smaller pohutukawa trees in preparation for this event.

However, the events leading up to this particular family gathering had actually been set in motion over a year ago. Some months after learning I had terminal cancer, I finally made up my mind about whether I wanted to be cremated or buried. For decades I had wavered between cremation or burial, and now it was time to decide. I chose to be cremated, and I told my children that I wanted my ashes to be buried at the place that had been my home for 42 years. They thought about what that would mean for them and some weeks later came back to me and explained that after my death they would really like to have a place they could visit. This wouldn’t be possible if my ashes were buried here at home as once the house they all grew up in had been sold it would then be inaccessible to them.

After further discussion and some creative thinking, we found a way of my staying in the area. My third son and his wife live just around the corner from me on several acres of land which at various times of the year support a few pigs, some sheep and cattle, chickens, and two bee hives. It also has lots of mature fruit trees, some wonderful kauri trees and other mature trees. We decided that my ashes will be buried at my son’s place, and in order to avoid a similar scenario should my son and his wife decide to sell their property and move to a new home in the future, we came up with a plan. My ashes will be buried in a way that allows for them to be retrieved and buried elsewhere.

Having decided on the exact spot where my ashes will be buried – next to a rock that was already there when my son bought the property – a space has been created for the four trees and the outdoor garden seat that we also intend to buy. The spot has a peaceful rural outlook across a valley that has lots of trees and only a few houses.

After lunch and in between occasional brief showers we dug four large holes and planted the large pohutukawa tree near the rock, then the kauri tree and the two smaller pohutukawa trees. It was such an amazing experience being able to take part in preparing my “final” resting place in this way – and to be doing this with my children. My ashes will be buried beside the rock which just happens to look vaguely like a tombstone.

There is one stipulation – my ashes must not be divided but remain intact! And I have full confidence that my family will be able to come to an agreement on where my next resting place should be.