Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Friday, June 5, 2015

Choosing a Final Resting Place

My parents, Roosevelt Memorial Park, Gardena
My second husband, Ken Wilson, died six years ago today. As he'd wanted, the Neptune Society took care of his cremation. For five years his ashes remained in a lime green box from India, above the computer desk in our country home living room, in the far northeast corner of Washington State. Ken had loved living there, and wanted his ashes buried on our property.

We'd joked about, threatening to distribute them behind the barn. Ken, insisting that his remains needed to nourish the rose bushes growing along the side fence. But, he warned me, he didn't want me to put them in the ground until I'd sold the house. He knew that as I continued to age, I'd not be able to tend to the three-and-a-half acres and the four-bedroom, two-story house forever.
The Friday before Memorial Day
So when a prospective buyer emerged, my stepson, Rick, came up to help me clear out the shed and the garage. On the fifth anniversary of his dad's death, the two of us chose a spot where the ashes could be settled, right by the roses. We toasted Ken with a can of beer, and then went to the new sports bar in town to watch the NBA playoffs. I'd been watching those very playoffs the long night when Ken had died.
Grandma, between her two husbands, as she'd planned

Now I've moved back to Califonria. This past May I realized I hadn't been to see the graves of my family since Luella Burgess French, my her hadoptive mom, had died in January, 1987. She'd died on New Year's morning, after being in a come for some time. She'd had respiratory failure, after years of diminishing abilities related to what was likely Alzheimer's. At the Roosevelt Memorial Park that day I remembered helping her choose a cardigan to wear to her husband's funeral four years earlier. She'd already been vague, and had slipped on a sweater with a hole at the elbow, and misbuttoned it. I selected a more suitable one, and she changed. Though she seemed confused when we got to the funeral, she leaned over my father's coffin, murmuring, "Sweetheart, sweetheart."

My son, who lives right here in Orange County, hadn't realized that Grandma had this family plot. He hadn't been to the funerals for this side of the family, because of school, I recall. So he offered to go with me. While we were there we observed that there were few recent gravestones. Most, like my family, had dates in the '40s to the '80s. This, we realized, is because so many people these days, like Ken, choose cremation.

My grandmother bought the plots back in the 1930s. Grandpa Joe was buried there in 1939. The handwritten records book show she made the final payment on the plots in 1943. "A real layaway plan," my son had observed.

My first husband, Bob Elders, too, had been cremated. His ashes had been distributed near the Pacific Ocean, my son said. My birth father, Al Burgess, had been cremated and the Neptune Society scattered his ashes at sea, as he wished. Ken had no affinity for the sea. No, he wanted to be right there by his roses. And he is.

At the cemetery my son asked where I wanted my ashes to go. He's long known that I have asked for cremation. Since I'll be 78 this month, this question isn't premature on his part. I hadn't really thought about that, I realized. At one time, decades ago, I'd thought that the place that had brought me the most joy was Silver Creek Falls, near Scotts Mills, OR, where I used to splash as a child during the three post-WWII years my family had fled California. But I no longer have that strong a tie to those gorgeous waterfalls. I, too, am enamored of the Pacific. But I don't want to be scattered willy nilly over the waves. I'll have to think about it. It will, of course, be my final decision. That's a startling thought.
Grandpa Joe, who died when I was two.

My son, Steve, with his great-grandma's stone

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