As a child I was fascinated with the stories of how the yew tree came to be associated with graveyards: the idea of people being buried with a handful of yew seeds as a nod towards resurrection appealed to my sense of morbid fascination. Then I read a book that suggested that through the ages people had been routinely buried whilst still alive. Now, I understand that the past held in its armoury some pretty brutal forms of discipline and punishment, and I’m fairly certain there were people around who would have been only too happy to employ such methods – many of them our very own monarchs for example – but those unfortunates who suffered such a fate must surely have been small in number. Besides, the book claimed that signs of live burial were still being found amongst those buried in the twentieth century, which led me to believe that the majority were probably innocently interred: presumed to be dead at the time of burial. Not a pretty thought, is it? But it also leads to the conclusion that a similar number also woke up as they entered the crematorium furnace – maybe less appetising yet.
For years it haunted me, but as the only solution I could think of involved me being kept above ground until there was absolutely no doubt of my demise, whereupon I would have to be taken off to meet my maker in a series of buckets, I suppressed it. More recently, I have thought of insisting that I be put in my box holding my mobile phone, but I know what the battery life is like. If I awoke with flames licking around my body, only to find that my phone battery had gone, I would be so mad! I fear that my geriatric organs have little value for transplant, certainly it would probably only be a cobbler that would care for my liver, so I do not have even the failsafe of having had my organs harvested pre-bonfire. I’m guessing that there’s little chance of waking up after that. Anyway, I think that was what was on my mind…
Bury me up in a tree
Where the warming sun can shine on me.
Not by its roots,
Or in its shade,
Nor in the silence that it’s made.
Bury me in the canopy
Where the morning birds can sing to me.
Not at its feet,
In darkened balm,
But ever held within its arms.
Lay me in that skyward place,
Held within its firm embrace.
On dappled skies;
Alone to face that long goodbye.
Bury me amongst the leaves
Encased within the living wreaths
Where, should I wake
At dawn’s first bid,
I won’t be under nailed-on lid.
Let me lie, under the sky,
Where I can feel the world pass by,
So, when my mortal
Days are through,
We’ll be together, me and yew.