Sunday, April 19, 2015

'burying' my mother

Yesterday, as a means of keeping a promise I had not kept during the winter months, I asked my younger son if he wanted to drive up to the river where I promised my mother she would eventually be "buried." Ashes in the flowing river....

A small box with blue stickers reading "cremated remains" has sat on a nearby shelf while winter came and went. The weather was cold and slippery and I knew that approaching the river at Chapel Falls would be a dicey business, so I waited. My mother died Jan. 11 at 98.

My younger son said he would prefer to go today, but I have a hunch he might rather not go at all. The whole thing has a weird quality -- or anyway an off-the-beaten track element -- about it. Since I am not entirely clear in my own mind about what, if anything, the adventure is supposed to 'mean,' I am not inclined to press him with stylized or ritualized appreciations that a religious person might bring to bear.

First, it is a promise I made and I like to keep the promises I make. But after that, I'm not sure what to think/feel and have pretty much given myself permission not-to-know ... the thoughts and feelings will assert themselves when they are ready.

Second, I do like thinking my mother might like the setting and the simplicity of the setting and the uncertainty that lives under the human potential to control and understand. Knowing may be the habit but not-knowing is the human rule. Of course, my mother is no longer around to correct my appreciation of what her appreciation might be, so ... well, how can I go wrong?

Third, my mother was an honorable person and I wish to honor her. She wasn't always easy, but she was honorable. Chapel Falls strikes me as an honorable place.

Today is supposed to be a nice day and it would be nice to drive up to Chapel Falls. As a concession to the occasion, I think I will bring a piece of incense. Incense doesn't complain or explain or have a meaning.

But it smells good, even when it disappears.


  1. My parents had a Neptune Society account. When they died, the number was called and they were taken by strangers, made into ash and bone chunks, and then added to the silt of the San Francisco bay. At least that's what they said would be done. I don't know or care i guess. Visiting graves or memorials never made a lot of sense to me. I remember them when and wherever it happens, private memories that i sometimes share. I was with my folks the last days and hours before their deaths. But i didn't wash their bodies or engage in any after death rituals seeking closure. I don't know what closure means i guess. I have an account with the Neptune Society now. I'm sorry if that offends my survivors. If they require this "closure", they'll have to find it without me.

  2. Charlie -- You and I are old enough to know that "closure" is one of those made-up words that seems to make life easier for those in no need of "closure."

    "Nonsense" is the most polite word I can think of.