Thursday, August 07, 2008

Scattering Ashes

My sister-in-law phoned this morning to say that her daughter-in-law's father had died. This wasn't unexpected, but there are logistical problems about who can get there when. I asked if he would be cremated, since this would give everyone more flexibility about when to hold a memorial service. She didn't know, but said his mother had been cremated and this got us talking about the scattering of ashes. Although the grandmother had died some time ago and most of her ashes have been scattered, some of them will be taken someday to her native Scotland.

My sister-in-law asked what my husband and I wanted done when we died. I'd asked my husband that question a few months ago. His parents are buried together in a church cemetery along with many relatives from several generations back. That gives my husband a lot of comfort, but he said he wanted to be cremated.

“Where do you want your ashes scattered?” I asked.

“Around the campus,” he replied, the place where he has worked for over 35 years.

This will probably need to be done secretly since I'm not sure it's legal to scatter human remains just anywhere. We kept my mother's ashes for five and a half years until my Dad died. I asked the funeral director if it was OK to scatter the ashes near the house. He didn't answer my questions directly, but said, “I think you should be able to scatter them anywhere you want.”

So we scattered Mom and Dad together under a big spruce tree that my Dad had planted more than fifty years earlier. But we saved a few of Dad's ashes. My sister said, “Maybe this is crazy, but I'd like to put some of Dad's ashes on Grandpa Rees' grave.” Dad had always had a close relationship with his Grandpa Rees who had been more of a father to him than his actual father.

My daughter has named her first child Rees, after his ancestors. When we all arrived at the country cemetery where Grandpa Rees was buried, she was surprised to see her son's name, Rees, on 20 or 30 tombstones. “Are they all ours?” she asked.

“Yes,” I replied. So there's comfort in looking at the grave markers of our ancestors and thinking that a little piece of their DNA lives in us. But, like my husband, I want to be cremated and my ashes scattered.

Later: Where do I want my ashes scattered? Anywhere that will be a comfort to my survivors.


Anonymous DB said...

Jill -Where do you want your ashes scattered?

7:02 AM  

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