Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Yesterday I collected my husband’s ashes from the funeral directors. Sarah Jane, the one who is like our granddaughter, drove us in her car. She had been urging me to get them in case they got mislaid, which apparently happens sometimes. I find that I have to consider her sensibilities as well as my own at this time, as she loved Michael so much. I am apt to be a bit practical and breezy about the jobs that need doing.

I am not sure how I feel about ashes. I have no strong sense that they are part of my husband. He is surely long gone beyond the physical sphere by now. Nevertheless I found myself saying “Do you think I should have ‘him’ on my lap?”, as I sensed that SJ was unhappy about putting ‘him’ on the back seat. So I nursed the very heavy box on my knees, as we drove to his house where I had some things to do.

Then I found myself saying “Do you think ‘he’ would like to be in his house one more time?”, and instantly SJ said “Yes”. “Are we being silly?” I asked, and she said “No, it’s nice to have thoughts like that”. So we took ‘him’ inside. We considered leaving ‘him’ there for the time being, but both agreed that it was too cold and miserable.

When we got back to my house I took the urn out of the box. I was surprised and disappointed to find that the ashes were not in an urn-shaped container, but in a sort of screw-topped jar in dark green plastic – something more appropriate to the kitchen. It had no aesthetic appeal and no dignity about it, and I am wondering why, among all the other choices the funeral directors offered us, they did not offer a choice of urn. I have searched the web and there are some wonderful containers to be had.

We shall probably keep the ashes until the next time our eldest son home, so that the family can all go together to scatter them on a hilltop somewhere. So I am seriously considering buying another urn. The metal one I have chosen for my picture would be just right for the practical, no fuss, engineering sort of man that my husband was.


Knowleypowley said...


From your descriptions of Michael, the urn in the picture would be perfect.

From your previous posts, I realise that you might not be upto it, but I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a Happy Christmas and to thank you for sharing your thought with us over the last few months.

Lots of Love


Avus said...

As you say - ashes do not really matter in as much as the person is no longer there.
However, I think it is satisfying for the living person to mention where their ashes might be scattered.
I have a favourite, gentle spot where I love to sit and meditate during bicycle rides and I have made it known to my loved ones that it is there I want my ashes deposited.
The peace and satisfaction comes to me now, knowing that whatever is left when I "dissipate" will be at my peaceful spot.
I hope your Christmas is peaceful and fulfilling.

Anonymous said...

Dear Judith;

Your relating of the urn and ashes made me smile at a good memory I have. Actually several. When my Mother was dying of terminal lung cancer, she asked me if I would mind having her in my garden at the lake, making a little spot for her. No problem. Then she asked if her Mother could be placed with her. No problem. She sent for her Mother's ashes, they came by courier. The guy delivering guessed that there was "car parts" in the 8 lbs cardboard box. He was surprised when my Mother replied, nope, it's my Mother. LOL. My brother carved wooden boxes for their ashes, my sister in law painted the dogwood on the one for my grandmother as she was from British Columbia and the wild rose on the one for my Mother as she was from Alberta. Because the boxes were hand carved, they were slightly wonky, so my brother decided to not show them to her, as she would have said they were "seconds". On the day we decided to bury the ashes, we opened the cardboard boxes, inside were plastic bags, we poured the ashes in each box, but before sealing my Mothers, we placed a package of cigarettes, a lighter, a crossword from the paper, and a pencil, and of course, a tiny bottle of scotch. She would have been very pleased, and not even cared that she was in a wonky box.
Mary in Alberta

Sharon J said...

I'm also surprised that there isn't a choice.

Helen said...

My sisters did exactly that for me. I live in Australia and they waited until I came home so the three of us were together to scatter mum's ashes. Mum and dad used to love to sit in one particular little cafe that looked out on to the ocean on the south coast of England, and drink tea.
On the day, we all stumbled across the huge pebbles down to where the waves were crashing but weren't too big. My eldest sister is always emotional at times like that, our middle sister was sobbing; so I thought about mum not wanting us to be so upset and took the urn. As I emptied the urn and the ashes fell into the swirling water, a cloud of the fine dust hung in the air. I couldn't help but smile. She was there. And she has been with me ever since.

Pauline said...

What an interesting conversation you've started here. I agree, the urn you picture looks right for what you've told about Michael. I am making my own funerary pot out of an old cookie jar which will be turned into a mosiac of favorite things - glued on bits of old jewelry, broken crockery, snippets of pictures and writing. Once my ashes are confined in there, I've asked my kids to find a private spot on my old homestead and bury the pot there. One son is planning a commando raid at midnight so whomever's living in my old home will not be aware of my presence there. The others just look at me oddly.

Judith said...

I've been doing some research since I posted this. The urn I pictured is made in the US. The cheapest I could find it was on eBay for around US$65.00 (GB£33.00), then the shipping would cost another US$60 (GB£30.00). Is it worth all that for something nice to have around for a year or two until my son comes to UK again? Trouble is I've fallen in love with it, and nothing else I've seen cheaper in the UK seems right.

There are biodegradable urns available too, if you want to bury your ashes, not scatter them.

happyhippychick said...

I thought your choice of urn was lovely - it is odd that we are not offered other opitons - my dad came back to us in what looked like a large quality street jar

KeithD said...

I found my mother's ashes over the weekend, while transferring things from an old wardrobe to a newer one. Quite a surprise, because I'd forgotten I had them. They are in a cardboard box, inside a shiny carrier bag - the sort that are sold to use in lieu of gift-wrap - just as I received them at the crematorium. Now all I have to do is find the urn, also bought from an eBay seller, and last seen some months ago on the dining table.