Saturday, May 3, 2008

If Cremains Offend You, Stop Now

I was retelling this at school the other day, at lunch and my colleagues said I should write it down. I thought I had, but I have looked through my posts and can't find it.
Burying Mom

It had been well over a year since Mom had passed and my youngest brother convinced me that our youngest sister was never going to be ready to let go. Mom's cremains had been sitting in a tastefully innocuous box on a shelf for all that time, looking like an Encyclopedia Britannica, possibly J.or S. I had sometimes thought of doing a little decorative painting, but the reference book look was really OK for a bookshelf. My sister was not happy with our decision but requested some of the cremains to keep for herself, she actually wanted jewelry, but I will leave that up to her. Rick found out that Papa, our grandfather, had a third spot in the country cemetery where my grandparents, aunt and uncle are buried. Mom's idea had been that I sneak out in the middle of the night, dig a hole and put her with her mother, but, being the oldest child and carrying the burden of rule following that oldest children are bound to, I simply had to be legal! Dh was out of town when I decided to give my sister what she wanted so I had to shop for a small box or container that I thought would have appealed to Mom and to Elaine. I found a suitably antiquie looking box with a small volume so I wouldn't have to put in too many ashes.

I had never seen real ashes, just the ones they show in movies, so I was amazed at the density and weight of the box. I worked on my computer station in the living room, a lovely built-in DH designed and built for me. A very very nice space. I apprehensively opened the bag and tried to undo the ziplock that sealed the heavy duty plastic bag inside the box. I finally pulled out the bag from the box and cut an opening in it. (DO not remove the bag!) While I was dipping Tablespoonfuls of Mom's ashes into another baggy for my sister,, the original bag slowly lost it's shape and sank into another form. I didn't think that was a problem. Again I say (Do not remove the bag)Mentally I was thinking that Mom was getting a kick out of this, finding it funny, and I was past the weirdness and into the humor of the situation. I fixed Elaine's baggie and sealed it in a box with sealing wax. That seemed ceremonial to me. Then I tried to put the ashes back into the original box, no deal. Real cremains are dense and uncooperative as Mom herself could be sometimes, no matter how I pushed, urged and tried, I could not return the bag into the box, they would not accept the shape of the box. I went to the kitchen and got two walmart bags and doubled bagged the ashes into those bags, Mom would have loved that, though she would have preferred Aldi's sacks, if they even have sacks. I had to put the original plastic bag into the box and gently and carefully pour the ashes back into the original containers, I got my own cable tie to retie the bag. For some reason I thought I had broken some federal law by putting the hole in the bag and that the cemetery people would find that unacceptable. That was irrational, but you can excuse me for having some irrational thoughts at that time.

I gave the little wooden box to my sister and went alone one sunny day to meet the cemetery managers at the country cemetery where Mom got her wish to rest with her own mother, but legally, she really would have preferred illegally.(Just so you know, my sister wouldn't go) I do recommend waiting a couple of years to bury the cremains, there is a certain beauty and peace then that you don't have in the heat of the loss, for the first time I was able to look at the farmland gently sloping away from the little hill on which they all lie.
My childhood Sunday school teacher put Mom's box in the ground, my knees were too bad, and she, at least 90, just hopped down and did it and hopped right back up. A high school acquaitance and friend of my oldest cousin had dug the hole and remembered me, tht was so strange. I didn't feel anyone knew me from that school.

1 comment:

Katie Schwartz said...


I know what you mean about feeling like you're doing something wrong and similarly finding beauty and peace in waiting until you're ready to bury the cremains.

As always, you handled this deathuation with humor, grace and dignity.

What a dame you are.