Coming Out of the Closet
By David Weinstein
It was my mom’s birthday the other day. If she were still alive, she would be 99. But she’s no longer with us, at least not technically. I only hesitate because, in a sense, she is still with us. “Of course,” you might say, “Your mother is always with you.”
This is true. But you are probably referring to her spirit, whereas I am referring to that small box wrapped in craft paper in our closet on the shelf just above my sweaters. Yes, that’s where Mom currently resides (may her memory be a blessing). My sister Bev, who lives in New York, might have taken her, but our mom didn’t leave any special instructions on what to do with her ashes, and we were both fairly certain there must be a law against transporting human remains in a carry-on bag. So she stayed in California where she lived for the last 45 years of her life. Reflecting on this, it may not have been the best decision to leave Mom with me. As mentioned in earlier columns, I have a problem with procrastination. But this is where she wound up, at least on a temporary basis, generally undisturbed, except when the weather gets cold, and I have to rifle around for a sweater.
This whole topic would have never come up except for the convergence of three random occurrences. The first, mentioned above, was Mom’s birthday. The second was my wife Ann deciding we should go for an early morning walk along the beach at Crystal Cove. The weather was cold, and retrieving my sweater brought me into visual contact with my uncompleted task. The third, which was almost preternatural, was the roses we kept finding as we walked the beach. I gathered them up into a bouquet for Ann until someone explained where they were coming from: wreathes that accompanied a loved one’s ashes that had been scattered at sea.
Now I’m not overly superstitious, but when providence, or perhaps your dead mother, knocks on the door three times it might be best to open it. Standing in the sand, holding the wilted bouquet, I looked at my wife as she said in a chastening tone, “Maybe it’s time you did something with your mother’s ashes, and I don’t mean moving them to our storage locker next to your George Foreman grill.”
With this I finally had to agree.
My sister and I had several discussions with Mom while she was in hospice and still alert. Thinking back on this, I am reminded of a story I heard about the famous comedian Bob Hope. On his deathbed, his wife asked whether he wanted to be buried or cremated. He looked up, gave her a little smile, and said, “Why don’t you surprise me.”
Our conversation with Mom was much like this. She did, however, have several requests. One was that she be cremated. However, she was emphatic that we not use KindCremation. They had cremated her neighbor Gary’s mother and she thought they had overcharged him. There was a nearby crematorium where she preferred the pricing. I was tempted to ask if she had any coupons but thought better of it. The other was that she not be interred at Mayfield Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio, where my dad and his relatives are buried. She never got along with his family, “Besides,” she said, “I don’t like a lot of the other people buried there, either.”
My sister and I both thought it best to comply. Our mother was extremely willful, plus she threatened to haunt us if we disregarded this wish. That left it up to us to choose the place, which is what we are now tasked with.
I’m thinking Laguna Beach. It is such a beautiful place, and I can paddle out in the kayak I’ve been storing in my garage for the last decade and commit her ashes to the sea. Maybe cast her off with a few roses, and a card. She always loved cards. True, sending her ashes into the Pacific this way would be totally illegal, but a bargain burial. This would please her on both counts. She could never resist a bargain, and she always said that you had to bend a few rules if you ever wanted to get ahead in this life. And perhaps on some future anniversary of her birthday, we might all gather on the patio of the remodeled Hotel Laguna that looks out over the vast Pacific, order a 7 and 7, her favorite drink, and raise a glass. We, the kids, grandkids, and great grandkids can head to the beach, and, embraced by the sea, swim in the breaking waves imbued with her essence and memory.
Not a bad place to spend eternity.
David lives in Newport Beach and is an occasional contributor to the Laguna Beach Independent.View Our User Comment Policy