Saturday, January 24, 2009

Mom's Ashes

Mom's Ashes

About two weeks ago, we (Galya and I) took my Mom's ashes down to San Diego.  I'd promised my Mom that I'd take them down to my brother's grave after she died.  My Mom died almost six years ago, so it was about time.  It was a pretty good experience, with no tears (from me, anyway).

I have nothing touching to write, either.  I just want to state the facts.

My brother was a baby when he died, four years before I was even born, so the biggest thing for me was really taking care of the mom part. I'm not the "ashes on the mantle" or the sentimental on "resting places" type, but it's nice to have in a more final resting place instead of that plastic box in the red velvet bag.

This problem could have long ago been solved by a short car trip, but I kept putting it off.  In the meantime, I didn't really know where to keep her, so finding a respectful place around the house that wasn't creepy was tough (*cough*garage*cough*).

I know, I know. The garage seems like the perfect place for her, but it wasn't.  I'd put the box in a high cupboard, but I always needed other things from that cupboard it seemed ("Hi, Mom!".  Inside another box of things that I'd never use again?  Turns out I did need those crystal candy bowls ("Hey, Mom").

For the longest time, there was an air hockey table that got quite a lot of use, and the puck always seemed to find her box (it was on a shelf, behind some boxes of old pictures and slides) with a resounding and unusual thunk.  It wasn't uncommon for me to toss out the little quip of "Hey, don't hit my mom!" to throw off the competition and take that final point for the win!

That Mom and I make a good air hockey team was no reason to hang onto the past.  Plus, the past can't be the past while the "past" is still hanging around the present.  So, I added the San Diego trip to my calendar and then rolled it week to week for about five years.  I'm such a good son, huh?  At least Outlook and I never forgot...

Finally, Gal offered to go down there with me while she was here.  A few weeks later, we found ourselves down in San Diego, only slightly lost and slightly late, but there at the Cemetery.

My father was in the Army back in 1964, so my brother is buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.  Like the other National Cemeteries I've seen, it's beautiful, with row after row of white headstones.  We got down there pretty late -- around sunset -- so it was pretty dark and cold.  It took a long time, lots of walking, and lots of shivering to find the spot where my brother is buried. 

I didn't cry, and I still feel weird about it.  But, my mom died a long time ago, and Gal reminded me that I'd put her to rest years ago.  True, we'd had a funeral and a memorial with her friends in Montana, years ago.

But, here I was, and I thought it would be hard once I got there.  But, it wasn't hard at all.  It was quiet and calm.  It was weird to see my brother's name there, carved into the headstone.  Anthony Robert Denzel.  I'd never been there before and even though I knew the name, I never really thought about it.  My son's name is Anthony.  My grandfathers' names were Anton and Robert on my Dad's and Mom's side, respectively.  I knew all that, but it was still quite a moment.

I took the ashes out of my backpack, kneeled, and spread them out.  I felt like I should say something, but I had nothing, so I just stayed there, kneeling, "deep in thought" for a minute.  Soon, I got up without saying anything, and we walked back to the car.

On the way back, I crumpled the bag that had contained the ashes.  "What do I do with this?' holding the bag up.  "It's not totally empty."  It seemed wrong to throw it away like that.

"We're going to rinse it in the ocean," Gal said, reminding me of our discussion from the drive down.  I had forgotten.  That was a good solution, although it means another trip...  It was already dark and we weren't near the beach. 

In the meantime, where to keep the bag?  In the garage, I guess.


  1. As someone who has lost family I can relate to what you are saying. I remember wanting to say something when there was nothing to say. I found it both touching and humorous when you were "deep in thought" for a minute. I dont think I lasted that long. Thanks for making me feel somewhat "normal"

  2. I'm a mom. I'm dealing with cancer. If it is any consolation to you, I had a very careful conversation with my kids. Life does go on, and I expect them to remember that. After six years, I don't want them crying over me either.

  3. Thank you for sharing. -Erika


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