Hear the Melody
It’s a birthday week in my family so Friday I pulled out the pineapple upside down cake recipe. I am happy that I asked Mom about it last year so I have her input on how she made it. Little did I know at that time how much that would mean to me a year later. I sang Happy Birthday to them while they lit and then blew out the candles and then we ate the special birthday cake.
Friday we interred Mom’s ashes; another step to this very surreal situation.
The step required a decision that has been difficult for us because we don’t know all of her wishes. We only know her view that she didn’t care whether she was buried or cremated. For her it was about the economics and the emotional needs of those making the decision. My brother and I discussed our personal opinions and the critical piece for us was that we make a mutually agreed upon decision. The first decision whether to bury or cremate was fairly straightforward for us. We made the decision to cremate.
Then a few weeks ago we received Mom’s cremains. So now…what do we do with them? We needed to answer for ourselves a few questions: What can we do from an emotional standpoint? From an economic standpoint? From a legacy standpoint?
- Emotional standpoint: We needed to do something we considered respectful of Mom. We didn’t want to keep the ashes in our homes or wear or carry them nor did we want spread them. In researching ideas for dispersing cremains the list seems endless.
- Economical standpoint: When we buried our grandmother in 2007 we learned that there was another space in that family plot. Mom said that space could be used for her since all other members of that family had made other arrangements. So, from an economic standpoint, we already owned the space and the only fee was $200 to open and close the grave. The rules of this particular cemetery allow for a husband and a wife to have their cremains buried in one space and then must have one double headstone. Mom wasn’t married when she died so that means the space would be for only her cremains. For me the difficulty with this was that I don’t really think it is economically smart to use a full space for one person’s cremains. In considering other ways to disperse the cremains the economics of them ranged from free to costly and none really seemed meaningful for our situation.
- Legacy standpoint: Over the years Mom became interested in genealogy and visited cemeteries to gather information from headstones, which she recorded on findagrave.com and in her genealogy program. I believe she came to value headstones in a new way.
Our decision: Pay the $200 fee to open and close the space in the family plot and bury the cremains then place a headstone there. This decision met our emotional, economic and legacy needs.
Great. Now, all the decisions are made, right? Nope.
- Choosing a container in which to bury the cremains: The cremains came in a plastic bag inside a small cardboard box with Mom’s name and date of cremation on it. Some cemeteries require an urn others have no requirements. Our cemetery had no requirements. Ultimately, we chose to place the cardboard box with the cremains in a decorative chest that we found at Mom’s house while we were cleaning it. We used that chest in the memorial service for her and placed treasured items in it. So, it has symbolism and meaning.
- Choosing a headstone: What size, color, cost? What do you include on it? Do you want to include her middle name and maiden name? Do you want to include her full birth and death dates or just the years? Do you want any engraved image on the stone? Do you want an epitaph? These sound simple in some ways but each person has different thoughts and emotions to consider. My brother and I worked through each of these and made our decisions together. I think one of the toughest parts in choosing a headstone was writing an epitaph because as my brother said “I just don’t know what to say that will epitomize Mom in 5 or 6 words. It’s not much space to put all your feelings of a lifetime into.”
- Writing and choosing the epitaph: There are two types of epitaphs 1) an inscription on or at a grave in memory of the person, i.e.: beloved mother. 2) a brief statement epitomizing the deceased. Originally I was writing the second type and it seemed to me that my brother preferred the first type. We spent much of a day texting one another and sharing ideas and definitions. Music was important to Mom and we know she believed we each have a voice – a special melody that is our own. Knowing that helped us recognize and identify with certain words. One quote I shared with my brother was “When we hum or whistle to ourselves, it is melody that we hum or whistle, our recollection of the melody helping us to recreate in the mind’s ear as much of the whole piece as we can. — Walter Piston, author” So Mom’s melody recalls all of her, the whole piece. At the end of the day, my brother and I had written an epitaph that is better than either one of us would have done on our own. We chose: “Her melody, faith, and love lives within us”. I love what my brother said of it: “I like that one. That one sounds more like how I feel. It covers the most of who Mom was in just a few words, and also includes the people who love her as a testament to what she instilled in us.”
- celebrated Dad’s birthday
- celebrated my brother’s birthday
- ate a cake I baked using the steps Mom shared
- sang a song
- took pictures & video
- spent time together
- interred Mom’s cremains
- visited the cemetery where my great grandparents, grandparents, infant son and now my Mom rest