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Byline: Elaine Morgan

I'VE been reading about the drama over the ashes of the film star Marlon Brando who died in 2004. His first wife - the one who was raised in Cardiff - claims the right to keep a share of them.

Steve Dub in Carmarthen I've never understood the impulse to keep such a souvenir in a jar on the mantelpiece. After Morien's death, his ashes were scattered in the Cwm, where mine will probably join them. It's a quiet and peaceful little beauty spot, situated between three locations - where he was born, where I was born, and this house where we settled down.

That news item reminded me of a similar squabble over the ashes of DH Lawrence who died of TB in France and was buried there in 1930. His reputation was then at a very low ebb. He'd been ostracised in England after running away with a professor's wife whom he later married. To make matters worse, she was German, and had once even been suspected of being a spy. Lawrence's books and poems at that date had few admirers, and the last one, "Lady Chatterley's Lover," was considered far too shocking to be published. It was many years before some critics re-assessed his works and rated them among the major literary achievements of the century.

Meanwhile his widow Frieda continued to live in New Mexico, where they'd set up home together. Five years after his death, at her request, his body was exhumed, and cremated in Marseilles, and his ashes were brought back to her.

Later still, she was told she had no right to them and someone was coming to repossess them. Uncertain of her legal rights, she had the ashes sprinkled into a pile of wet cement and fashioned into a large concrete slab, so that carrying it back to Europe would be next to impossible. The slab is still there, and is shown to visiting tourists turning up to pay tribute to Lawrence's memory.

But I find the plot has thickened since I heard that version many years ago. We're now told that the person Frieda sent to France to bring her the ashes ( some Americans call them the "cremains") was her new lover Angelo Ravagli. Years later he confessed that he'd actually scattered Lawrence's ashes in France, and refilled Frieda's vase with some dust he picked up in New York. After all, who'd know the difference? My view is this. Every atom in your body is only there on loan. It's been in and out of thousands of plants and animals before you were ever thought of. It's been around since before the Earth was formed, even before the solar system. Ask an astronomer what we're made of and he'll tell you: we're all made out of stardust. Well, that's poetic enough for me.

I'd like to think my atoms were being usefully recycled. Who needs to keep stardust in a pot?
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Title Annotation:Letters
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 27, 2010
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