My Mother died a few years ago. I’m still getting over it. Maybe some things you just never actually get over.
You don’t get over how you felt when your children were born; you don’t just get used to them and move on, right? You don’t just get over being cheated on by some slimy ex-boyfriend (you know who you are) – I mean, you can stop wanting to run him over with your car, but some residual stuff is bound to hang around, right?
So why do people say you should get over things? I know, of course, it’s not healthy, or normal even, to dwell on every sad or awful thing that has ever happened to you; just like it’s probably not really healthy or normal to maintain the level of joy from your happiest moment: can you imagine going around, through life, as amped up as you were the first time you saw your baby, or got exactly what you wanted from Santa?
I know we have to move forward; grow up; incorporate; accept; deal. Of course we do, or we’d all be emotional cripples and weirdos. I think I’ve done all that. But I haven’t gotten over it.
My Mom left specific instructions that she did not want any kind of funeral or wake or celebration of life. She wanted her remains to be cremated, but left no wishes regarding the ashes. She hated funerals, and I think, she didn’t want to put any of us through the ordeal of planning such an event. She was a humble person, and I suspect she didn’t want that much attention focussed on her, even after she was gone.
I am one of five siblings, and it’s been difficult to reach any real consensus about what to do with our Mother’s ashes. None of us presume to know for certain what Mom would want, so we end up stalling over and over.
I picked up the ashes from the Funeral Home a few days after she died. The woman there brought me the small oblong box, and while she was trying to jam it into this little velvet bag – not unlike something you’d put a bottle of wine into as a hostess gift – she rambled on, complaining how someone had obviously ordered the wrong size bags; telling me how best to open the box without spilling the contents, and how there might be some bigger chunks in there and not to be alarmed by that, and to remember not to open the interior bag upwind if I were planning on sprinkling the ashes in Nature.
It was such a surreal exchange for me. She may as well have been instructing me on bread crumbs that I was planning to coat fish with. I stood there and cried, my brain was on hold somewhere. When she finally looked at me, she apologized, saying she sometimes forgot what she was actually packaging up.
Yeah. Standardized pat on hand. Zombie walk to car. Unknown moments or hours spent in parking lot, staring at box, brain refusing to understand how a few days ago that was the living, breathing woman that I loved so much.
I have had my Mother’s ashes, in that box, in that too small velvet bag, inside my closet, since that day. There has been at least one discussion per year about what to do next. Usually someone gets too sad to carry on, and we all walk very lightly around each others’ concerns or thoughts. Last year we reached a sort of agreement. Part of our plan includes laying a stone next to the one on our Father’s grave, marking our Mother’s passage.
I have been charged with ordering that stone. It seems a simple enough task really. My brothers and sister and I discussed what sort of sentiment we’d like engraved on the granite slab alongside the pertinent dates, and it’s been left to me to decide the exact wording.
There are probably less than ten words between me and finally ordering this thing to be made. But I cannot seem to do it. And I’m not sure why.
Obviously there is the gravity of trying to sum up someone’s life in some pithy little sentiment that cannot possibly suffice. My choice will, literally, be etched in stone. No pressure.
But, honestly, I don’t think that’s the whole problem: I have to accept that I can probably never hit upon the right words, and I cannot ever guarantee that one of my siblings won’t think I chose wrong. Plus, knowing my Mom, I don’t think she’d be all that stressed out by whatever we put on the stone, as long as we don’t make a spelling mistake, or engrave her shoe size on it. She knew, without doubt, how very much each of us adored her, and she just didn’t care that much about stuff like this.
I think my problem may be more about the finality of us having reached any decision. This act of placing the stone and dealing with the ashes will mark the actual end – the actual last physical thing to do with my Mother’s death. And, I guess, her life.
I can tell funny or touching stories about her now. I can remember things she did or said without dissolving into a million tears. I can have photos of her in pretty frames around the house. I can even recall some of her not-so-perfect traits now without feeling all guilty and disloyal. I’m okay. I hate that she’s gone, but she is. There’s a great big Mom-sized hole in my life, but that’s how things go. I get that.
But getting back into the car with that little box, so tightly jammed into that stupid velvet bag, is going to be tough. I’m going to hand that box to my family – whom I love and trust with all my heart – and she’s going to be really, really gone.
My Mom was one of the funniest people I’ll ever know. She was beautiful, and tall, and strong, and capable. She had perfect pitch; she could play any instrument she tried, and could sing any song. She whistled when she was happy, and tapped her fingers on the table when she was mad. She could make something out of nothing, like magic, and I wanted to be just like her in so many ways that I didn’t even know.
I miss her so much, every single day. And I know she’ll be with me and my son and my family and everyone that ever really knew her, forever, in our hearts and our memories. So I know that this last act is just one of those things people need to do, and will not take anything else away. But, oh, it’s hard.
One day, very soon, I will muster the courage to choose those words, and I will order the stone engraved, and I will join my family in one last physical goodbye. And we will cry, and we will laugh at each other, and hold each other up, again. I’ll never get over it, but I will get on with it, because that’s what my beautiful Mother would want.
7 thoughts on “Memorial”
Absolutely beautiful. I so miss aunt Doreen; your mom and it brings it home the sad reality of having to just deal with it. You say it just right. I am left wondering what the words will be and I bet it will be just right. Your mom will help you. Thanks for this.
Thank you Janice. Love you…
What a beautiful tribute to a wonderful lady you were fortunate enough to call Mom. I too lost my Mom this winter and we will lay her to rest next Saturday; the final physical act that is required. It won’t end the grief or the missing her, but knowing it is “undone” weighs heavy with me. I am fortunate that my Mom, a no frills person like yours had already purchased her stone. I cannot imagine the heartbreak of having to chose adequate words to describe your Mother as she was so special. However: I do feel assured that whatever words you choose will be perfect as they will be straight from your heart and be an eternal tribute to a wonderful Mom who loved so deeply and was deeply loved. Take care Cheryl ❤ Wendy and John
Thank you so much. I’m so sorry for your loss. Forever in our hearts, right? I’m sure she helped to make you the compassionate person you are… thank you both.
…so beautifully written
Very recently I found myself in a totally ridiculous situation and thought to myself, “Oh, I can’t wait t tell Dad this…he’ll love it! ” He died 16 years ago, and I still miss his wonderful sense- of- the- ridiculous every day. But now when this happens it makes me smile, and shake my head, and accept that this too is a form of sharing and remaining in touch. Thanks for sharing your thoughts,Cheryl.