Friday, August 19, 2011


All summer one thing has been waking me up in the middle of the night: what am I going to put my Mother's ashes in for the memorial? When I picked them up from the funeral home, she'd been dead about four days, I think. I thought I should feel some connection to them. I've read stories about people who have used the ashes of a loved one in tattoo ink, or even, in one instance, of a husband sprinkling a bit on his morning cereal. And everyone has stories of someone they know spreading ashes. I don't know what I expected. What I got was a discreet tote bag and a perfectly serviceable box. The funeral home lady made me open it and look inside-as though I could tell her, yes, I can see that it really is my Mother. So I thanked her and carried them out to the car. I rode around for a couple of hours, trying to figure out what to do next. I'd been to the attorney, I'd made all the calls I could think of.

But now I had my Mom in a box, in a tote bag, and all I could think of was, I'll be able to sleep again. And that I couldn't remember a single hymn that she'd told me she'd wanted sung at her funeral. Not one.

That was the end of April, and that thought hasn't gone away. I couldn't bring myself to buy one of the urns on display at the funeral home. They all looked so impersonal. Just like the ashes. So I put it off. I looked around online, sort of. Nothing seemed right.

The memorial is next week, and I can't imagine how displeased her friends would be with the box. Or nothing. Though, that's what I would prefer.

All summer I've been avoiding the art shop in the Farmer's Market. Mom loved to shop there. She bought prints that artists had made of down town Flint, and she bought lots of the pottery they sell there. I was there with my Dad and nephew two days ago, and the bowls on display made me miss her. Out of habit I began to price them for Christmas, birthday, anniversary, but stopped myself before I said anything out loud. Then I happened to look down on the floor, in the corner, and saw it. This potter that my Mother loved had made me an urn for her. It was perfect, a deep iridescent blue.

I'd like to think it's a little bit of an apology for not remembering the hymns, and for many other things too numerous to talk about. I'd like to think that it's a sign, that things will start to come back, that I can stop sleepwalking. It's not that I want to forget my Mom, it's the opposite. I want to remember something other than ashes.