Bringing Mom Home

Last Friday, I took the day off from work.  It was a beautiful spring day with brilliant sunlight peeking through new leaves and cheery forsythia branches nodding in the cool breeze.  Just the kind of weather that makes you glad you’re alive and living in New England.  But my heart was heavy.  My job for the day was to take my mother home.

When Mom passed away in December, the weather was cold and snowy.   We had her cremated with the intention of burying her ashes next to my father’s when spring came.  This was to be the weekend, and I had volunteered to pick up her ashes from the funeral home.

While driving from Concord to Northwood, I noted how ironic it is that I was taking her home in the car she had given to me shortly before she died. She loved that car, and the independence it afforded her, and in November, when passing the keys to me, her eyes acknowledged the sad realization she would not drive again.   I drove slowly, but when I turned a corner, the urn fell over on the seat next to me.  I reached over to right it and found that I couldn’t let go.  Silent tears splashed on the steering wheel, while I cradled the urn for the remainder of the drive. 

For the past twenty-seven years my mother lived in an old farm house with my sister Martha-Jean, her husband Robert and their ten children.  I remember the day they found the house and how my mother loved the magnolia tree by the front door.  Now the tree was in full bloom- just beginning to shed its pale pink blossoms. They fell upon on the ramp to the entry, as if a carpet set out for her return.  In the back field my nephew mowed the small cemetery where my father and two nephews lie at rest.  I cringed at the idea of covering my mother’s remains in a dark grave. She was sunlight and smiles, full of laughter and loving touches.  I could not imagine her covered beneath the earth.

I stood outside for a moment, watching the emerald grass wave in the breeze. Usually at this time of year, my mother would be in the yard, planting her garden. She loved to garden.  When I was a teenager, she transformed our dusty back yard to a jungle of peas, beans and tomatoes.  When she moved to Northwood, she and my sister planted rows upon rows of vegetables.  Her gardens grew like her children- robust and abundant, and there was nothing she liked better than to get down on her hands and knees and play in the dirt.

“Play in the dirt.” I almost said it aloud.

Burying Mom’s ashes was not hiding her from the light. It was laying her in the earth she loved so much.  The warm earth that transformed a few seeds to a bountiful harvest.  The rocky earth that fed her children, and their children.  The earth of her home.  This was where she belonged.

So the next morning, surrounded by my siblings and our children, I tenderly placed my mother’s ashes next to my father’s in the rich New Hampshire soil that she loved so well.  Together we covered the grave. Together, we wiped each other’s tears.  Together, we kissed each other’s cheeks.  And together, we brought Mom home. 

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