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Ashes

After a week with family that started with a sweet hospital visit, became a sad deathbed vigil, and was capped with a wake, a funeral Mass, and coldcuts and Irish whiskey at my uncle’s house, I’m going to do a few posts about death & dying, I think. My parents told me a bit about what they want for a funeral. Whoever survives will keep the ashes of the other, then both sets of ashes will be combined and scattered — avoiding public lands, where pay-to-scatter businesses have collided with public land management policy (and rightly so, I think). A precise location hasn’t been decided yet, though I asked them to choose one place, not a dozen; I don’t want to have to be retired to visit them. My mother asked me what I wanted; I said I had no idea, except that it will involve cremation. And, I added, just plunk the ashes somewhere.

Norma Erard was my only real grandmother, the one with a kitchen, a garden, and a back room with treasures kids didn’t touch. She was a sweet lady, a traditional Catholic, and the mother of 8 who harbored them against my gruff grandfather’s tyrannical storms. It was often her green thumb against his iron thumb. She had 6 years after he died to explore life on her own, and she used the time well. She believed in St. Anthony, guardian angels, and going to heaven; when Misty and I showed up at her bedside, she thought I was an angel, and that she had passed away and made it to heaven. On the religion front, she always gave me a hard time, wanting me to practice Catholicism (“hard time” meaning that she asked a few unusually pointed questions, and made it a point to tell me she was praying for me), but she was never begrudging. After all, she was willing to think I was an angel. But isn’t that just like a grandmother?