Memorials and Memories

May 31, 2010

My mother and father are both deceased. For years they asked my husband and me the question, “Should we be buried or cremated and where?” We talked about the options. But it was not a question we could answer for them. Sometimes, however, I wish I had. They chose to be buried at a cemetery in a building with ten-high rows of drawers. Their remains are at about level five.

I find it difficult to visit there or place plastic flowers in the vases provided on the ground floor between the walls of drawers. The place is cold and a little creepy. Nothing about it reminds me of my parents. Aesthetics were important to them. My mother was a ballet dancer and an artist. My dad loved to putter in the garden with his roses and geraniums.

My aversion to my parents’ burial place makes me wonder why any of us go to a cemetery to honor our ancestors and friends who have died. It’s clear to me; my parents are not in the drawer. My thought is this. I need a place set apart for reflection, honoring, and remembering. I need a tangible place where I have special permission to feel the feelings I have: sorrow, joy, gratitude, awe, guilt, release….

I wish my parents had chosen a lovely, hilly graveside with trees and flowers. But they didn’t. So I use other tangible objects and settings as prompts for remembering. Whenever I look at one of my mothers’ paintings, sit on the hundred-year old couch she passed on to me, or read from my little red King James Bible, I remember and thank her. When I pass by red geraniums or caladiums, my father comes to mind and I smile.

I hope even more than remembering at a cemetery or with an object that my life will ” honor my father and my mother, so that my days may be long in the land that the Lord my God is giving me.” (Exodus 20: 12 NRSV- you was changed to my)

Here is a little bouquet to you, mom and dad…and to all of the others we remember this day who have given us life, enhanced our lives, saved our lives, freed our lives….Thank you.

Drawing: Sybil MacBeth