‘Not like that, Simon, be careful. You’re spilling it.’ My son looked up, and I sensed he was still coming to terms with what had happened and was almost tearful again. He put the small plastic bag down on the table.

The consultant had tried his best to lessen the blow as we sat in his office. I’d asked him not to faff around, and he didn’t.

‘Bob, 6 months, a month on either side. I promise you there’ll be no significant pain, but it is now a process of containment, rather than treatment.’ Simon gripped my hand as the consultant spoke, and then we both rose, left his office and went home, via the off-licence. Within a couple of hours, most of the whisky was gone, as was Simon’s normal reticence, his words slightly slurred.

‘To the best dad in the world.’ He finished his glass, as the tears streamed down his cheeks again. ‘What’re you going to do, Dad? Six months and that’s it. Bastard.’ His vulnerability was clear. He’d taken the sudden death of his mother two years ago badly, but at least it had been quick. I knew he would struggle with my impending demise.

‘Bucket list.’ I said. ‘But not the traditional one. Mine’s going to happen after I’m gone.’

He looked puzzled. ‘Simon, what do you think is my biggest lifetime regret?’

‘I don’t know. You can be quite secretive about such things, Dad.’

‘But we’ve talked about it many times, not in such a direct way, and it’s been a bit of a family joke. No?’ Simon paused for a short while.

‘Never gone abroad? In your whole life – never gone abroad!’

‘Spot on, Simon, but if my idea comes to fruition, that’s gonna change. There are various reasons Mum and I didn’t travel. We had little money, her constant ill-health, and my fear of flying. Twice we got to Heathrow, and twice turned round again because of me.’

‘I know that Dad, but despite that, Mandy and I remember vividly your bedtime stories, full of adventure, exotic and dangerous places, wonderful characters that you met. Best one was when you climbed Everest and met Sherpa Tensing on your way down, whilst he was on his first attempt. Of course, once we grew up, we realised that none of them had happened. You were just telling stories from books, but it seemed real, and we loved them. But what’s on your bucket list that can happen after you’re dead?’

‘Travel. Travel around the world to every exciting, challenging place there are whilst raising money for cancer charities.’

‘Explain, Dad, please?’

”I’m going to sell my ashes off grain by grain, to world travellers. They’ll be invited to pay £5 to our charity and promise to ensure my ashes reach the far-off destinations I never made. Spoke to a couple of people I know who travel widely, and they’re up for it already. Within weeks of my death I’m shall simultaneously arrive in Singapore and Swaziland, ‘cos that’s where they’re going, but there are millions of travellers. All I need to do is connect with them.’

‘Connect with them? How?’

‘Through all this social media malarky, Twitter, Facebook, Tic Toc, news media. It’s got lots of human interest. Anyway, your sister is a marketing executive. She’ll know how to promote it.’

‘So what exactly are you thinking of?’ said Simon, sharing the last remnants of the whisky between our glasses.

‘Between now and the final event, we practise, prepare and promote the scheme. I’ve done my research. A cremated human body creates nearly 4 kg of ashes. We mix a tiny amount of my ashes with other material, put it in a small plastic bag, and mail it directly to whoever in the world has made a £5 donation. They get their unique piece of me, go on holiday, scatter me at their chosen destination, and then email back, reporting their location. We create an online world map, and each scattering is accredited. I even thought of a name for the process. “Bobbing” and it will tie in with our slogan “BuyaBittaBob”. What do yah think?’

‘I think you’re bonkers, Dad, so bonkers, in fact, that it’s likely to succeed. It’s a win:win. You get to see the world at last, charity gets oodles of money, and worldwide travellers have a bit of fun, and add another purpose to their journey. We need to get of hold of Mandy soonest because this could become much bigger than either of us can imagine. I can see people having conversations. “Have you Bobbed today sir?”, or “I see you’re on an Arctic Bobbing, we went Amazon Bobbing last month. He’s everywhere. Well done Bob.” Simon paused, ‘Dad, you’re not just a Bob, you’re a knob, but I love yah, and if we can pull this off, it’ll be wonderful for all concerned.’

Mandy’s approach was thorough and businesslike. It was as if by focusing directly on the promotion, she could avoid her long-standing emotional impasse with her father. ‘Right Dad. First reaction is that you will either make a bloody fool of yourself and spend the valuable time you have left on a daft scheme, however, my gut reaction is that this idea could revolutionise the way people treat death, whilst raising masses of dosh for your charity. Practical stuff first.

Ashes are light grey to white. To show there are some grains of you in the mix, we need a darker mixer. My estimate is that we could achieve over 100,000 bags. However, we have other options. Mum’s still sitting in the cupboard, and there may be other sources, relatives who might want to donate their ashes. We need to source small, sealable plastic bags and labels. We need some immediate databases, and record keeping for donations, which can go directly to your charity, and we need that map so that it can have flashing lights showing where you have landed. We also need a team of volunteers, to help load the bags and label them. However, my priority is to test the social network media outlets and see what happens.’

‘But as you can see, Mandy, I’m not dead yet. Am I? Got a massive hangover though.’

‘Good. Now leave it to me, let’s test the water,’ said Mandy.

It boiled. Within days of raising the subject of my imminent death and last wishes, social media channels exploded. Mainstream media channels descended on our road, camped up and insisted on interview after interview. Local neighbours were at first aghast at the media attention. Then realised they could earn from providing bacon sarnies, tea, coffee and toilet facilities to the hungry audience as well as adding their own anecdotes about “Good old Bob”. Simon and I went back to practising filling small plastic bags using local sand when Mandy burst in excitedly.

‘Just had a meeting with a major retailer. They are printing a range of “Bobbing” T shirts, caps, sweaters, key rings and the like. We’ve got sole rights, brand, copyright, the lot. This could be huge dad. One of the online channels wants to make a documentary starting immediately, and following your progress.’

‘Well, it won’t be progress, will it?. Not from a personal point of view, but I understand. I’m not feeling too good at the moment. It’s all the excitement these past few weeks. Hadn’t realised how tired I am.’

‘You sure, Dad?’ asked Simon anxiously. ‘We’ve had over 200,000 people donating, and take part in “Bobbing” already, and every email brings fresh contacts. Many of them want to know when……?’

‘When what?’ ‘

‘Well, you know……..’

‘Ah, right. Well, if the deadline looms too close, tell em, I’ll shoot myself. Can’t keep the customers waiting, can we?’ Mandy intervened.

‘Now come on, Dad. This was your idea from the start. Simon and I are making every effort to ensure your dream happens, and so far, all signals are good. We’ll be ready for full-blown production in about a month, and some great news today. An international courier service has offered to deliver the goods for nothing. Excellent PR for them. Oh, and our local MP is raising the issue in Parliament tomorrow. Wants you given an honour, even a knighthood.’

‘Look kids, can I say to both of you how much I’ve appreciated what you’ve done. Starting from scratch, and in a matter of months, we’re almost ready to go. Over a million quid in the bank already. So it’s just down to me now, ain’t it? Just my contribution to come. But I wanted you to both know how much I love you, just in case I don’t get the chance later.’

How prophetic that comment was. I’m sitting here now, looking down on a hive of activity. Our lounge, dining room and kitchen, and even the hallway have trestle tables laden with plastic bags, labels, mini scales donated by the local Drug Squad, and PC’s with operators busily entering data. An entire team of volunteers is waiting expectantly for Simon and Mandy to arrive back from the crematorium to mix my ashes with a variety of substances, including coarse sand, and crushed graphite, donated by a pencil factory which went bankrupt.

I’ll soon be on my way. Scattered across the universe, absorbing all that sunshine, from the Bahamas to Beirut, sitting on mountaineers rucksacks in the Matterhorn and my favourite Everest, even secured to the belt of the divers exploring wrecks in the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and a return to the Titanic on a second expedition. Someone apparently has promised to include me in their posing pouch, whilst they are on a “special” photographic shoot. Let’s hope I don’t escape from my plastic haven and create a gritty situation for them.

Simon and Mandy have had a focus for their time since my diagnosis, and along the way we have come to a better understanding, so as someone said, win:win. Apparently, someone’s even started a swap shop, so that will expand my holiday experiences even more. Anyway, I’m off to Heaven, according to someone who bought me. Long white beard? Help!


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