Death and Disposition – You Say Your Mother’s Ashes Are Where?

Posted on June 16, 2012


A decade or more ago funerals and burials in my family became “trendy.”  A cousin whose mother had died, kept her ashes in his front hall closet. One day I went to him and said “I wish you would find a resting place for your mother.  People will begin to ask why I address the closet each time I disturb ‘her.'”

Soon I received a phone call instructing me to meet said cousin and his brother at the boat launch on the lake with croissant.  We would deposit their mother in the lake and then have a floating after party.  I arrived with doughnuts – only possible thing at the last moment.

I sat on the back seat securing the urn while the brothers drove on seated up front, protected from the sun by a canopy.  They got lost in touring the lake when I became funeral director: “stop here, here is the perfect place.”  Then I was asked if my camera could do video which it did and so there is a video of the moment mamma was hoisted over the side in a pot designed by one of the brothers and with prayers following.  I had been able to gather some white roses to cast upon the waters as it were and then we settled into doughnuts.

It took two years to bring closure to that family. I know of another in which a loved one’s ashes were scattered by the table spoonful to all places loved by the deceased.  Oh, well wasn’t it Napoleon who wanted his heart buried in Paris or some such thing?  As if people will care once they are back in business of their own lives.

My step father ordered up a huge granite marker to run the full length of his grave with mother.  It cost a fortune and I said to him that it was a grand waste of time. ” There will be another ice age and it will be moved.”

While kneeling at mother’s casket in the funeral home, I noticed unpainted portions and price tags hanging from the bottom of it.  These are details that a loved one should not have to encounter.  As a result of this,  I was at the graveside service checking to see that the corrections had been made rather than paying attention to the service and creating memorable moments for myself with mother at the goal post.

Mother was buried in the church yard of an upscale Main Line Episcopal Church.  The reception was in the church hall with burial just outside so I could move with my champagne from the party to the platform overlooking the gaping, deep hole to discuss things with the diggers.  Life is very basic.  Death should be.  Ashes are just easier to deal with overall.  Inasmuch as my grandparents were taken from their slots in the family mausoleum and their coffins scattered, it seems ashes are the safest bet to retain dignity.

Charlotte Whitney Allen of  Rochester had her sights set on never leaving home.   She decreed her ashes be buried in her garden followed by a large party for her friends – a small coterie who met at her home weekly.  When the new owner moved in, rumoring about Charlotte having been planted in the back yard flourished. One of the rumor mill minions was an old beau of mine.  If he had one too many, he would tell you all about it and proudly as if Charlotte and company had really pulled one off.  I burst his balloon when I suggested it might have been against city ordinance.

Months passed and finally the new owners were informed it was true, Charlotte was in point of fact in the garden.  Their instructive remark: Please let us know where she is so that we don’t disturb her. Other municipalities are not as forgiving and several have been moved to pass ordinances recently.  It is one thing to leave the dog’s ashes, another your own.

For my own end, I have gone green.  I ducked into my funeral “agent’s” place of business without appointment.  I told them it would only take 10 minutes to plan my funeral and it did.  I was to be cremated and slipped under the sod where my father is buried.  On the way out after the appointment, I encountered a huge fish tank. I turned to the staff member and said “how about burial at sea in that thing.”?  I just am irreverent about “remains.”

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