At some point during the week between receiving word that my mother was dying and her death, my brother and I were talking on the phone. I don’t remember the details of the conversation – we were both very distraught – but he offered to send me some of Mom’s ashes when she was gone. My response was something along the lines of, “Yeah, sure, okay.” It was lovely of him to offer, but ashes are not my thing. Between that, and my being upset and not thinking clearly, I’d already forgotten about it by the time I hung up the phone.
Mom died not long after. My family not being big on ceremony or sentimentality, there was no memorial, and I didn’t travel back home. I took some time off work, grieved, decompressed, and carried on.
A few weeks later, Ron and I were going out to run some errands. On the way, we drove down the street to the mailbox, where Ron jumped out to check the mail. I was surprised to see him coming back to the car with a parcel. I was even more surprised when I recognized the handwriting on the address label.
“That’s my brother’s writing,” I said as Ron got back into the car.
“Uh-huh,” Ron said.
“What on earth would he be sending me?”
“I don’t know,” Ron replied, “but it sure is heavy.”
And then he shook the box, like a kid does a Christmas present, trying to guess what’s inside.
This method of discovery having failed, we continued on our way, Ron holding the parcel in his lap while I wracked my brain, trying to figure out what on earth it could be.
And then it hit me. “I know what it is!” I cried. “I bet it’s Mom’s ashes.”
Ron, whom I hadn’t realized had gotten very, very quiet, told me it was. “There’s a label on it that says cremains. I didn’t see it at first.”
“Oh.” pause “Bet you wish you hadn’t shaken it now.”
When we got home, I pulled the wrapping off the box, and sure enough, inside was an urn containing my mother’s ashes. It was covered in a fine dusting of ash because, I discovered upon opening it, the plastic bag inside was only held shut with a twist-tie. Ash had leaked out of both the bag and the urn, on which the lid did not seal tight. I had to clean the whole thing off with a damp cloth.
I’m rather proud of myself for refraining from doing it with spit on a kleenex.
In the long run, I surprised myself by being glad to have some of Mom’s ashes, as it let me give her a final resting place I think she’d appreciate:
On my bookshelves, right between Harry Potter and her favourite books of all time, The Belgariad.