The needs of the individual will often come into conflict with the needs many, and here is a case in point. Ms Kara Thrall scattered the ashes of her mother and grandmother in the same spot in Nottingham’s Wilford Hill Crematorium in the communal woodland.
On the 3rd anniversary of her death Ms Thrall visited the spot and was distressed to find a notice from the council saying keepsakes left must be removed or the council will need to remove them for her. This upset Mrs Thrall deeply.
She said: “I just can’t understand the problem. It was quite upsetting because to me it’s comforting to have those items there. They are unique and don’t take up much space. They are just small mementos which mean something to us.”
She went onto say “We’re not taking up much space” , “It’s not like a grave. They are only little tokens.”
In fact she and her friend Ms Dawson (who had had a similar experience) felt so aggrieved they carried out a protest in Old Market Square on in opposition to the council’s policy.
Ms Dawson said: “It’s just devastating. The council is saying they look untidy, but if you go up in person – and I go regularly – they are pretty decorations which are tasteful. They are all looked after, many of them have fresh flowers every week. I just can’t see any harm in it. I understand her [Ms Thrall’s] frustration.”
Wanting to have a place to memorialise can be so very important to many people and the anguish of not be able to express memorialisation in their way can be extremely saddening for the individual. They may even hold council responsible for the diminishing the memory of that loved one.
However in this case I must say without wish to ignore the hurt caused I feel the needs of the many trump the needs of the few, the rules were in place before Ms Thruall scattered so presumably she could have taken note of what one is allowed to do and chosen a different place to scatter where she would have been allowed to use the site in the way she wished. This woodland is communal and thus a shared space for memorialisation and if it is a shared space then it has to be suitable for the majority. Nottingham city council appear to have considered this Eddie Curry their Head of Parks and Open Space, said: “Our woodland area is for general use to scatter the cremated remains of loved ones. It is used by a great number of people and there are rules about what can and cannot be placed there, so that it can remain tidy and pleasant for all those who use it. However, some families have placed unauthorised memorials there, leading to complaints from other visitors to the cemetery.
“We are gradually and sensitively carrying out a process to remove unauthorised items, with plenty of information and staff on site to explain why this is necessary. When items are eventually removed, anything of sensitive value is bagged and retained for collection, with the only things disposed of being items such as stones, kerb edgings or fencing and related materials
“Where we have already cleared areas, there is a significant improvement to the look of the area as we are able to fully maintain it and cut the grass. Many families have understood and accepted this approach and have moved items to the new seasonal areas we have developed.”
Nottingham City Council is overhauling its management of Wilford Hill Crematorium, including its Woodland Walk and Garden of Rest areas. It is still allowing “temporary memorialisation items” but says they will be removed “once decay begins”.
The authority says its guidelines make the crematorium fit the needs of all its users and helps them keep it clean and tidy. You can lay down: flowers, cards, balloons, Christmas wreaths and floral tributes.
But grievers are not permitted to place windmills, lantern hooks, solar lights, small fences or anything that is pushed into the ground. They are also banned from leaving “large amounts of memorial items” at their loved ones’ resting places. Other “more permanent” items can be placed in four seasonal memorial beds or in the bricked troughs in the Woodland Walk and Garden of Rest.
This to me doesn’t seem unreasonable for a rule that applies to all, it is probably impossible for grieving individuals to see that their needs can’t trump everyone else’s. I am not a fan of the ‘thin end of the wedge’ type argument as it is often used to mask ulterior motives. But when there is a clearly a likelihood that the original intention (in this case a woodland walk) being impacted then there needs to be a policy. I totally understand Ms Thrall upset she can’t be expected to see that what she considers to be a small issue has larger implications it is too close and too personal. I very much doubt she will be thinking ‘well if 500 people are scattered here a year and 50% chose to place some form of memorialisation then after 4 year there will be 1000 individual shrines, which may detract from the serenity of the woods’ she may be along the lines ‘we only want a little spot to come and reflect, this is my mum and nan for pities’ sake’
It is tough for all concerned, and whilst it may be too late for Ms Thrall, it should be incumbent upon all such site managers when arranging a scattering for a family to make crystal clear what is and isn’t permissible. Then armed with the facts the family can choose an alternative location if so desired.