The Gift

For Christmas, my dad gifted me with a beautiful silver box, sealed, personalized, and full of my mother’s ashes. Each of us children received such a present and the unexpected feeling of holding something so precious and real, but uncomfortable all at the same time. I know my feelings about the soul, and how I so surely sensed it leaving at the time of my mother’s death, but still it seemed so much like I was holding her again all these years later. Because in that box, were bits of bone I’m sure, and pieces of DNA and pulverized detritus of her. And it’s that body gone and the space it took in this world that freaks me so. I’m absolutely mesmerized by how we live and how we die and the rippingness of it all.


Anyway, several months after my mom passed away, our family came together to disperse her ashes as she wished, in sea waves, with birds circling in blue and dipping to wind music, and I thought that was it. The last of my mom. In the physical sense, you know? So it came as a bit of a surprise to know my dad’s had something of “her” still, even after 14 years.


It reminds me of an episode from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (I know), when Buffy’s mom died unexpectedly, and Buffy had to call 911. On the phone, she told the dispatcher that someone had to come get “the body.” And then her face froze with the shock of having to refer to her mother that way. As a “thing” almost and no longer a person. For an hour or so, Buffy sat with “the body,” and waited. Soon enough, people came to collect and Buffy watched with relief and desperation as the lifeless figure was absconded with, and taken forever. That is, until her sister tried to reanimate the body with an ancient spell and bring a half-alive mom back from the ground, dirt clumped to bloody heels and all, and this is where the analogy kind of falls apart, except I’ve often thought, “What IF I could bring my mom back?”


What this all means to me and its circumspectness is no great revelation to anyone who has read my blog for any length of time, but my question is: What do I do with this box? Because it’s as if my mom came back.


Given my enduring ambivalence about having my mom taken so early and my obsession with the darkness of death and how I don’t face reality easily, it’s hard to imagine propping the box up on a dresser and seeing it every day. But it’s what I’m driven to do.


Or put it in a drawer? Hidden but there?


I welcome all ideas. Except ones involving re-animation.


13 thoughts on “The Gift”

  1. If it were me, I would tuck the box away in a drawer or shelf where you will not come across it until you are ready. Then you can put it out where you’ll see it everyday. I think it’s too soon. But one day, you will be ready.

  2. Wow. That’s a very heavy gift. I think I would bury the box in the garden and go sit there sometimes, when you want to be close to your mom. -xo

  3. This is a tough call. And one I don’t envy you having to make.

    My dad had a very difficult time attending funerals. At an early age, I was aware of his preference to remember people (and animals) as they were in life, not in death. So, when he died at the ridiculously young age of 53, there was no way I was going to have the image of his lifeless body be my lingering memory of him. My mom asked me if I wanted to see my dad before his body was cremated and I declined. And she also asked me if I wanted to help dispose of his ashes–again, I declined.

    I did what was important to me, what jived with my personal beliefs and desires. And because of that, I feel totally at peace. I know there are people who need to see their loved one’s body to feel okay or who feel like it is their responsibility to scatter or house their ashes–and if that is what makes them feel serene–they should do it. Whatever you decide to do, I hope it brings you a feeling of peace and serenity. And, I hope it brings you that much closer to your mom.

    Happy New Year, friend. xoxo

  4. Is there a room in your house, like an office where you go to read and write, somewhere with a hidden-in-plain-sight location? For me, a bit of my mother in such a place would provide a sense of peace.

    I’d probably find myself in there quite often, talking away to that lovely silver box on the upper right-hand bookshelf, nestled in between the crystal dolphin and the hand painted egg.

  5. Your dad’s inability to fully let go of your mom is wonderfully romantic, in a tragic sort of way. I’m guessing the fact he has given you and your sibs a share of the ashes means he has reached some sort of acceptance. He is on his own journey in that regard.

    And you are on YOUR own journey. Since you all but asked for opinions, I’ll suggest that you should honor your mother’s wishes, even if your dad couldn’t. With your share of the ashes, you can honor your mother’s request to disperse her ashes as she wished. She was doing that for you, you know. Make it a personal ceremony, with memories, gratitude, and promises.

    Peace, Deb.

  6. Scatter them yourself maybe? What would YOU have done to lay her to rest? She is always with you, but is the physical reminder too much? Xoxoxoxo x infinity.

  7. My family has along and strange ash history. My husband can’t let his grandmother’s ashes go so he keeps them in his sock drawer. My cousin keeps her brother in a urn in her car. they go on road trips. When my dad died I was 16 and we put his ashes on a mountain he always played on as a boy. I go there sometimes and know he’s hanging out with me. Keep the faith and give yourself time.

  8. I hope you don’t mind my admitting (because it is true) that I have little experience with death and almost none with the the (untimely) loss of someone very close to me.

    At 43 years old, I am a lucky idiot who is clumsy and completely ignorant about how to cope with such grief.

    So of the above suggestions, the box buried in the backyard appeals to me; although I know my own parents wish to be cremated and to have their ashes dispersed.

    They do not want a memorial service of any kind; their written wishes request that their children gather with a good bottle of wine to enjoy while sharing stories about their lives.


    This plan presupposes they will be alive for several more decades (they are in their mid sixties) and that their ends will be both expected and peaceful.

    So I don’t know.
    And am of no help to you, I realize.
    Except to say that I believe you’ll know the right thing to do at the moment that you must.

    Love ~ the clumsy idiot.

  9. I’m still new to your blog, so I don’t know that I should give you any advice, but I do want to tell you how powerful this is and how moved I am by what you’ve written and shared.

  10. Baby. Have you seen the episode of My Strange Addiction where the chick can’t stop eating her husband’s ashes?

    Don’t do that.

    Also, I do not mean to take the situation so lightly, it is just how I deal with this stuff. My father’s ashes were released at sea as well and I don’t know how I would react or feel if my mother presented me with a portion of his ashes that she kept.

  11. I’m coming over from Gigi’s and I just have to say (even though I totally know it was not the point of this post) that any lover of Buffy is a friend of mine. You just got a new subscriber.

    Oh, and the post was beautiful and touching as well.

  12. Deb, you know this is so in my wheelhouse. I’m still catching up on blog reading so funny I got to this today. Talked to my boss today. His dad died on the 22nd and they had a small ceremony yesterday. Apparently his mom forgot the ashes. I don’t have the details but I’m picturing this:

    “We have to go back we’ve forgotten your father.”
    “Oh mom, I know it’s been a tough week but you remember, right? Dad died.”
    “Oh for the love of Pete, I FORGOT YOUR FATHER, turn the car around so we can pick up the urn and not be late for church.”

    For me, I’m all about keeping the ashes. A friend, who married a much older man, and I used to joke about how she’d keep a small tin of him with her and travel the world hauling him out of her purse to show him the sights. I keep my dog next to my grandfather’s chair in the living room. I like knowing they’re around but I simultaneously see them somewhere else, too. I don’t know if it’s heaven but somewhere.

    The 2 things that give me pause for this, though, are that it’s expressly against your mom’s wishes and you didn’t choose it. Given those things I would support you in taking some time to find the right place to scatter your portion in keeping with her instructions.

    But I’d also support you in finding the perfect no-pressure place in your house to stash the box so you can see it when you need to but not every second of the day.

    Love you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.