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What's After Death?

Have you ever asked someone where they would like to spend eternity? You know, it's one of those difficult questions to ask and part of those important discussions everyone should have with family and close friends. It's important; really important. And sometimes the topic surfaces during casual conversation.

About a week before Wade died, we were sitting around discussing with my sister (who lives with us) what she wanted us to do for her when she passed away. It was a somewhat lighthearted discussion which stemmed from her telling of an ailment she had been ignoring. We were kidding around (sort of) and asked her the question. Which led us all to discuss our own thoughts on the subject.

Wade was very much a simple man. Not in a bad way by any stretch, just that he wasn't much for fanfare or wanting unnecessary effort or expense on things. When we got married, neither of us could fathom why anyone would go to such great expense on a wedding when that money could be spent on more practical and useful things, like a down payment on a home, or an upgraded car. For us both, it wasn't the event that mattered as much as it was the ceremony and public pronouncement of our love for each other. We created our own hand-made invitations, the dress code was casual/country, the vows were exchanged at our home followed by the reception at our home, and we catered the meal (well, we ordered the BBQ). And it was an almost perfect day. Almost, because my sister (my maid of honor) and her two children were in a horrible car accident on the way to the wedding requiring the girls to be Care-Flighted to the Children's Hospital over 50 miles away. Our wedding night was spent traveling between two different hospitals checking on our loved ones.

When my mother died five years ago, she had said she wanted to have her body donated to science and had all of the paperwork in place. She clearly knew what she wanted and had shared that with me. However, that was not how it played out, and not from anything I did or did not do to honor her wishes. The circumstances of her death prevented that from happening. And she has sat on my bookshelf in one of two matched (pricey) urns she had purchased herself. I am seriously contemplating giving her to a local artist who creates paintings from ashes. He says every person generates their own color. I'm curious what color she is.

So when the discussion of what to do came up just days before Wade's passing, I knew what he wanted. And I was OK with it. And it was easier to make decisions at the time, because we had just talked about it. Well, it's never easy, but the decisions had to be made, and his wishes were still so clear in my mind. And yet, I am having trouble following through. I am tortured by what he wanted, what his faith dictates and what his mother desires. And the overriding voice I hear is his, telling me above all else to take care of his mother. So he sits on the mantle waiting; waiting for me to make a decision.

His brother was here the other day and said it was a little unnerving to see the wooden box still poised over the fireplace. Not creepy, but rather an obvious in-your-face reminder. I wonder now if his mother and sister had the same feeling when they were here for Thanksgiving? I didn't ask and they didn't comment.

His mother and I visited a cemetery near her, and it was all I could do to not cry. Well, I did cry, but I wanted to scream. Looking out at all of the plots reminded me so much of what he didn't like. He loved space and wasn't much for the close proximity of traditional neighborhoods. And here we were, looking at the after-life equivalent of what he detested. So I brought him home with me until we can find something more suitable.

I am coming to terms with the religious aspect (Catholic) of disposition of his cremains. "The only constant is change itself" is how I am choosing to interpret the church's position, with further justification around the fact he underwent an autopsy and there was bone and tissue donations, of which the church does approve. Conflict and the church....go figure.

He would not be pleased that so much energy and angst exists on this decision. For now I am being selfish, keeping him all to myself.

2 comments:

i am so terribly sorry that you have to decide something like this; his mother's wishes or his. i think you need to meditate on whether his "take care of my mother," meant follow her dictates to the letter, or if you can be allowed to do as your husband wished. it will always be very difficult to deal with. you are in my constant prayers.

also, on the aside, if you do give your mother's ashes to your local artist, i'd really love to know what color she is.

take care and i pray you have a peaceful Christmas.

December 16, 2009 at 6:22 AM  

It's a tough decision you have to make. It's too bad Wade didn't have the discussion with his mother, too! When I've had to make difficult choices, I tend to go with my gutt reaction. It usually never steers me wrong, even when my head is disagreeing.

Good luck and take care of yourself. Wishing you moments of peace and smiles this holiday season.

Debbie

December 16, 2009 at 1:50 PM  

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