Saturday, October 15, 2016

Safe At Home

Dave and I can't watch post-season baseball when the Chicago Cubs are doing well without thinking about his Mom. Murry was a huge Cubbies fan.

Right now, though, she's in a small ceramic pot. At least some of her is. We got custody of the pot of Murry after another death in the family, not that we asked for it: we did not. But we reluctantly took the jar in, and it was immediately followed by two good-sized golden cardboard boxes full of the rest of her, in case we ever need to top up the pot.

We don't want to top up the pot. We never wanted any ashes in the first place. We are rational people, and ashes are ashes and dust is dust. Once someone has been rendered to a vacuumable condition, we're pretty much done with that person, except for the love and gratitude and regret and maybe a good recipe. The problem with ashes is you can't just throw them out, unless you do so with ceremony in some meaningful fashion. So they're a burden.

And we know what we're supposed to do with Murry's ashes. We're supposed to sprinkle them on Wrigley Field. Memory is unreliable, and reality comes down to whatever you've managed to make up over the years, so we no longer know if we promised her a home in Wrigley Field or if we thought it up after she died. I'm quite certain we imagined the ceremony as a spray of fairy-dust in the breeze, a flick of the fingers, and not the bucket-dump in the ivy wall it would have to be. They frown on this sort of thing in Major League Baseball anyway, and if we were to let fly with both golden boxes and the pot, we could blind a fielder.

I resent the way inanimate things like bone dust or sorrow insinuate themselves into your life and start ordering you around. Streaks do the same thing.  They have power they shouldn't have. There is something sacred about a good streak, and the winless streak of the Cubs, who have not prevailed in a World Series since 1908, eight years before Murry was born, is as sacred as they come. My own Red Sox had a good streak going too, but it was snapped in 2004, and they've done rather well for themselves since. I'd be happy for Cubs fans if they win this year, but it would ruin the exquisite purity of their suffering. And they'd miss it. I know this. I still root for the Red Sox, but success has diluted my fervor, and now I don't care as much if they win, as long as the Yankees lose.

Neither one of us believes Murry is now in any position to celebrate a Cubs victory. We're rational people. That will not stop us from giving her credit for having some kind of influence if they win. And that is even though we never blame her when they don't. And even though we don't think she's anywhere inside the pot of ashes, we can't throw them away. Rational only gets you so far.

In 1989 Murry slipped out of the sphere too early, but with no struggle or fuss. She was found sitting up in her chair, the newspaper in her lap, her coffee cup by her side, and the Cubbies on the TV. That is either completely true, or we made some of it up. We don't know anymore. But sometimes you true a story the way you true a wheel, so that it rolls smooth. Murry loved us and her grandkids and coffee and the Chicago Cubs. We trued her life.

Go Cubbies.

51 comments:

  1. Where cremains are concerned, always remember the words of Oscar Wilde: it is easier to get forgiveness than permission. My uncle wanted to have his ashes scattered at the same beach where his wife's ashes were scattered twenty years earlier. (Also done surreptitiously.) If I had asked someone for permission, I would have undoubtedly been shuttled from one bureaucrat to another before being told "no." But by going to the beach with a couple of my uncle's friends and strolling along the shoreline until no one was around, I managed to accomplish this task quickly, with no fanfare, then we all had a nice dinner. We did variations of this with my mom and my husband's mom, only since they didn't specify what to do with their ashes, we thought that local woodland parks were a good choice. That way they are returning to the earth in as natural a way as can be done in this unnatural period of time.

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    1. I'm not sure why it's illegal. Is it a pollution thing, or is it some weirdness about dead people? In any case, we're highly unlikely to be able to stroll Wrigley Field surreptitiously.

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  2. I mixed my Laurie's ashes with peat moss and sea soil and spread them over his fern garden. The ferns are doing great.

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    1. I rather like the in-one's-own-garden approach myself. Or up on Mt. Hood, where the soil is already pretty much ashes.

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    2. I'd like to be left for wild critters to deal with and have any left-overs composted, but the powers That be tend to take a dim view. So I'm hopping I'll live long enough to qualify for something like that legally.

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    3. You know you can't even be dropped into a hole in your back yard, here.

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    4. There is a "green cemetery" in the next county over. The most recent burial I heard about was just in a wicker basket. Better for the environment than the fuel and heat needed for cremation, and the remains are returned to nature. Creeps me out though.

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  3. Both of my parents wanted to be sprinkled over the ocean so they could float back home to Germany. I don't know if they made it or whether the tides are still carrying them around 12 and 16 years later. I did keep a teaspoonful of each of their ashes and buried it under a rosebush.

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    1. Man, I'd bet against their having made it to Germany. But it's all in the thought.

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  4. My sister had my mother's ashes and we also carried a burden for years of what to do with them and we eventually all gathered an sprinkled them around an evergreen high in the Rocky Mountains which she loved.

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    1. See? A burden. I know we're not supposed to say it.

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  5. We had my father's ashes less than a year before we were able to put them in a fjord in northern Iceland across from where his father had been born. It was at an abandoned farm not too far south of the Arctic Circle with a few Eider ducks swimming nearby. So long, Otto.

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    1. Oh well hell if I had a FJORD I'd put everything in it.

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  6. I'm so glad you're in the world, writing. May your ashes one day be sprinkled all over all the books in a library so that the librarians sneeze throughout their entire shifts and say things like "Goldenrod must be blooming."

    What I'm saying is this: when you're dead, may you be like a bad allergy.

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    1. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

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  7. This was a sweet post; you made me feel like I knew her--& liked her!!

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    1. I sure did. You are what you eat, and what she ate was candy. Sweet as anything.

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  8. My parents were both added to the rose gardens. Practical people, it seemed right and proper.
    And I hope to feed a tree. Not as ashes, but in an eco funeral.

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    1. Really, what is to be done? Just stuck in the woods somewhere to be worked over by the critters--that'd be nice. I gather cremation uses a lot of energy.

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    2. No coffin, no embalming. No headstone. Buried in a shroud, with a tree at my head (or foot). Some places are now allowing it.

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    3. I think that it's somewhere in India, where they have towers that they take the dead bodies up to, leaving them for the vultures and ravens to pick clean. Since I love birds, this would be my ideal disposition. Something useful could be done with my body, because god knows I've lived my life trying to keep "being useful" to a minimum. But I'm sure that the funeral industry would be up in arms against anything so practical.

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    4. I know I've written about sky burials before, but I can't find it right now. Interesting side note to that is that they've run short of vultures because of some hormone/medicine they started feeding their cows that poisons the vultures that feed on their corpses. So they've had to try to rustle up a bunch of ravens and crows and they don't do as expeditious a job of it, and it's a real problem, because there are a WHOLE lot of dead people in India.

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    5. Corvids are very intelligent, but they are interested in a wide variety of things, whereas the vultures are just focused on their next meal. Sure, there's the dead body in the tower that they can eat, but there are also all those shiny things over there that they can cache somewhere and fondle at their leisure.

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    6. I thought it was just relative size, but you make a very good point. Ohhh, shiny.

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    7. I'm with Elephant's Child: six feet under, wrapped in a shroud. In that TV series, "Six Feet Under" one of the characters did bury his girlfriend that way. It looked so beautiful and felt so right.

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    8. I remember that series. I can't remember if the poor girlfriend was still alive at the time.

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  9. A few years ago I started checking the regulations here for disposal of cremated remains. I found out there were a ton of restrictions. I also found out that a person takes up more room when cremated than I expected, although not an urn and two boxes ... so it does take some thought and preparation to plant them anywhere, whether it's a cemetery or somewhere else. I'm thinking one of your hikes, maybe ...?

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    1. Mt. Hood is all ash already. Seems plausible.

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  10. Many years ago I talked Bill into taking a trip across the USA using as many modes of transportation as we could. On a Greyhound bus, somewhere near St Louis, the lady across the aisle from us had a (it looked like a Chinese take-out box) container on the seat next to her. She told us she was taking her father-in-law back to Nebraska where he wanted his ashes... distributed? tossed? strewn?.... and she was fulfilling his last wishes. I'm just happy your m-i-l got to see her Cubs one last time.... who cares where her dust goes?

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  11. My husband never wanted to be buried and requested cremation. When talking about his ashes, I asked if there were a particular place to spread them. He said to spread them "here, there, everywhere." I spread some of his at the coast. Now I have the other half to spread up at Trillium and Timothy lakes (just need a ride there. Some of his ashes were spread by other relatives in Newport Beach, CA., Arizona, North Dakota...he would have loved that. I have a smidgen in two memorial necklaces to hold close to my heart. I had asked him WHAT ABOUT A MARKER OR SOMETHING and he told me to nail something to a tree. He loved camping and nature.

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    1. I don't know why, but this reminds me of when I tried to talk Dave into nailing a little basket of fake flowers to the front door because the magazine article said "your front door says a lot about you." He said "Why don't we just nail a beer can up there?"

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    2. Chuckling at the beer can comment

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  12. For those who want their bodies left to whatever might eat them, people can donate themselves to the forensic body farm. I'm too lazy to look up where it is located. They just toss the bodies out and study what becomes of them. Also, I'm surprised your m-i-l had so much "left-overs" as to fill a jar and two good-sized boxes. My brother-in-law just filled a rather small box and he wasn't a small man.

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    1. Yeah! They're on the Oregon coast, I think. Hey, I was surprised too. She was not a hefty woman, although tall. I guess she just had good bones.

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  13. This: "Sometimes you true a story the way you true a wheel...."

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  14. Ashes of loved ones are a problem. I'm still carrying around our dog's ashes and he died 12 years ago. Afraid of a Big Lebowski moment I guess.

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  15. So, would that be Dave in the photo? He looks like he was a happy little guy!

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  16. I bought a nice plot with a perfect view of Mt. Hood. Not that I think I'll notice the view, but my friends and family will, and hopefully it'll give them comfort. As for myself, I've directed that I'm to be rolled up in a nice piece of fabric and lowered into the ground, where I will nourish and become a tree. I like that.

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    1. Now I'm thinking fabrics. A nice flannel with bunnies? Dotted Swiss? Hmm.

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  17. You know I am right down the street from Wrigley Field, give or take a few miles. Get me a ticket to one of the games and I could at least flush some ashes inside the ball park.

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    1. Oh, shoot, I don't know. Flush? That doesn't seem quite right. And if I had a ticket to the game I'd go.

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  18. I'm fairly certain that my dad's death in early 2004 was the reason why the Bosox won. I haven't followed baseball since the 1967 Red Sox broke my 10-year old heart but I'm hoping like hell the Cubs bring it home this year. I love the snapping sound of breaking a good long losing streak.

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    1. Aww, your poor dad! Mine was born the year the Cubs won last.

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    2. My dad was an aberration--a Yankee's fan deep in the heart of Red Sox territory. I think he'd have appreciated the irony.

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  19. I was a big fan of a minor league team and told my family to spread my ashes in center field. But the team built a fancy park downtown, which I hate, and now there's a warehouse in "my" center field. So we're thinking up new possibilities for both hubby and me.

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