My dad does not like wreaths. Not even at Christmas.
He tells me that when he was a child, a wreath hung on a door meant death within. He and his friends would make a wide berth as they passed by, silent.
He does not like cemeteries, either. And wonders at my fascination with them. The cemetery is one of my favorite places to walk, so full of peace and history.
But he has decided to bury her ashes. To create a place to remember. To keep her memory alive.
He’s even bought some plexiglass and glued her obituary between two plates.
From ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Here we will record her name and years.
And so he has come today with a few family members.
The place has been prepared for us.
Sissy and I spread some Christmas green satin.
It seems wrong to take pictures.
But already so many visions are fading.
And I don’t want to forget.
Sissy tells me how she hurried to leave work so she could get home and “shrink wrap Mom” before our 3 o’clock gathering. She’s covered the urn to protect it and tied it with a white bow.
I don’t take a picture.
Dad wants to hold it.
He clutches the urn to his chest in the cold.
“There’s room for both of us,” he says.
I don’t take a picture of him, fingers intertwined around it.
I don’t take a picture of him as he kneels in the snow to place it in the ground.
I don’t take a picture of my sister kneeling next to him as together they swaddle it.
Or of my brother stepping forward to help him to his feet.
I wish I had.
I still struggle with the thought of my mother being reduced to dust and contained in this small vessel.
Yet I know it does not house her spirit that with one last shudder of the body flew heavenward.
I was there.
We say some words, words we’ve pulled from other ceremonies, added some of our own.
Here we will come from time to time bearing tributes of beauty and fragrance in her memory.
We read a couple of poems.
The grands and great-grands sprinkle flower petals saved from the memorial service, the gifts they gave then. Our Dutch friends each place a tulip.
Then one by one, we sprinkle sand from the lake and dirt from the yard.
Almighty God . . . we commit to you our wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, Bernie, who has passed beyond our sight and will celebrate Christmas with you face-to-face . . . you know our sadness and our pain and our sense of loss. But we rejoice that for Mom there is no pain, and there are no tears. There’s no more night. And maybe there’s no more snow. Or if there is, perhaps she’s been re-engineered to love it.
We sing a couple of verses of Amazing Grace.
Sissy and I plan to fill the earth’s wound after everyone has gone, but Dad wants to do it.
My brother brings the wheelbarrow, and they fill together. Then place the cut sod on top. My father pushes the stake bearing her name into it.
And it’s over.
In the spring, we’ll plan something more permanent to mark this place. Perhaps Dad can build and carve a bench.
After everyone leaves, Sissy and I smooth things out, even things up.
And now God, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference. Fill us with creativity and compassion. Help us to enjoy life, to move through it with a quick wit and grace. Help us to love and laugh and live each day in Mom’s memory, knowing that we will one day meet again.
It’s late afternoon. Sissy and Niecey and I go back to Mom and Dad’s–I mean, Dad’s–where he’s made some hot coffee and wait for our hands and feet to warm. We eat some left-over brunch casserole and some of Dad’s banana bread.
I feel my legs tingle as they thaw.
When I download my pictures, I see Sissy sneaked some of Dad and me as we puzzle some pieces.
As he talks politics, and I listen and nod.
When Sissy and Niecey are gone, we watch his shows–Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy.
I think about shrink wrap and how I’ve felt gathered and tied up in the love and prayers of friends.
How we’re shrink wrapped in Him.
I doze off and on, something I do a lot lately.
Tomorrow I will go home.
And prepare to unwrap Christmas.
To celebrate the One who set aside His glory and entered our dust.
So that the dust could not hold us.
And I’m so very grateful.
I am the Resurrection and the Life; because I live, you shall live also. We do not sorrow as those who have no hope.