Throughout my marriage, my husband and I discussed some of the details related to our eventual deaths. We decided we would be cremated. We gave each other permission to remarry if love came around again. We discussed end of life directives. We talked about who would raise the kids if we both died before they were grown. But there were a lot of details we didn’t talk about. Some we just didn’t even know would be important to discuss. Like what kind of urn do you want? Do you want it buried in a cemetery? Which cemetery? Do you want a headstone? What kind? What color? Do you want your ashes scattered? Where? AAAAAGH! It’s too much!
Because we didn’t make all the decisions together, they now fall on me, the survivor….the widow. And let me tell you something, these decisions feel so important and so overwhelming! I want it to be perfect. Sometimes I wish I had just made an immediate decision at the funeral home. Done. No looking back. But I didn’t. And so now, a year later, I’m just starting to implement a plan. It’s not a traditional plan, but it’s a good plan for my kids, and me, which is what matters.
Initially, I knew what I wanted to do with some of his ashes. I knew we needed to get away from here after the funeral. We needed a vacation. We needed some fun, and we needed to build new, happy memories together. We were going to take a vacation and I had a destination in mind.
We have never been a big vacation family. In fact, we only took one big vacation our entire marriage, but it was a whopper. When the kids were 3, 6 and 16, we went on a Caribbean Cruise! It remains one of the best, happiest, most relaxing and wonderful times of our lives.
I will never regret the money we spent on that trip. After my husband died, I knew I wanted to return to the Caribbean with the kids. Three months after he died, the kids and I flew south and embarked the Oasis of the Seas. We had a short service at sea, prayed, read a beautiful passage from the Bible and scattered some ashes in the Caribbean. It was beautiful and poetic and I felt very at peace about the decision to do this.
Not to be overly blunt or disrespectful, but there are a lot of ashes left. I couldn’t travel on an airplane with all of them, so now I’m left with more decisions. An urn on a shelf? No, too many Nerf guns in this house for that. A cemetery? Well, our church doesn’t have its own and I’d have to choose a random location. Plus, my kids are young! Where will they end up in life? Where will I end up in life? I know I don’t want a headstone/cemetery to feel like an obligation. I don’t want my kids to ever feel bad if they can’t visit that location because maybe they will live halfway across the country. So what to do??
I know what my husband would say. He’d say don’t spend money on that stuff! I’m not there! And I realize this, however I think the kids need a place. They need a place where they can go, reflect, pray and remember. So a new plan was born.
I’ve lived in our house for eight years but we haven’t really done any landscaping in our back yard. I had the idea of creating a large garden space. A memory garden – a sanctuary of sorts. I envisioned a sitting area, ornamental trees and lots of beautiful flowers. I envisioned an outdoor urn that looks more like a piece of art and not a traditional urn. Something only we would know about (well, now all of you also). And most importantly, if I ever move away from this area one day, it would be something I could take with me and incorporate into a new garden.
I realize this isn’t standard and customary. Not everyone will understand or agree with this idea and that’s ok. For some, cremation isn’t right. For others, burial isn’t right. And for others, a cemetery is very important. All of those decisions are perfectly OK! Grief, and the dozens and dozens of significant choices that need to be made following a person’s death are so personal. There isn’t one or two ways to do it. There’s the way that brings you the most peace, and that’s the right thing to do.
I’m excited to report work has begun on this garden space. It’s not done yet, but it’s taking shape. I have plans to incorporate special touches that have significance to us. There will be subtle things to remind us of my husband’s life. Flowers in the colors of his alma mater, maybe a “W” flag (Cubs fan!), and Bible verses that were special to us on stepping stones? I’m not completely sure yet, but there will be lots and lots of special things in this space.
I also plan to include peonies, which remind me of my Great Grandma, geraniums, which remind me of my other Grandma and how she taught me to “dead-head” them. There will be lots of lilies to remind me of my step-dad. Eventually, it will be the peaceful sanctuary we all need. I won’t call it closure though. Closure is a ridiculous word. I prefer peace. This project will bring me peace. Would you like to see some before and during pictures?
I’ll be posting more as this project comes along. I’m so excited to see the finished product. And then again as the flowers grow and bloom! Not to get too hokey, but this is all so symbolic, don’t you think? We’re ripped apart, pulled up by the roots, tossed around, and then we are made into something different…something new. We are changed, but we will grow and eventually bloom into something beautiful. Ok, yeah, that was hokey. Sorry.
Now off to deal with the water pouring into the basement from the outside faucet (after I’ve already had the plumber here and paid him this morning). Life….you aren’t the kindest and you require all sorts of extra grace.