The Trouble With My Mother

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My mother, who passed last December, is – technically speaking – very much with us.  In fact, she resides at the top of the closet of the guest room closet, at my sister’s house.

The sad truth of it is that my sisters and I have not come to a decision on what to do with her ashes, and as she left no will or final wishes, we are at a loss.

I loved my mother.  But she was a difficult woman.  A difficult human, rather – I am not sure it actually had anything to do with her being a woman. She was a recovering alcoholic and though being manipulative and selfish are part of an addict’s personality, I think she might have been that way even without the chemical addiction.  She was irresponsible, careless with her money, thoughtless.  She didn’t drive.  She was an animal hoarder.

And yet.

I loved her, I truly did.  I loved to talk about books and perfume and music with her.  I loved to listen to her curse and laugh, I loved to watch her eat a fish sandwich (she always wanted to eat the same thing, no matter which restaurant we dined in). I could be so incredibly angry with her but then we would just fall into our easy pattern of chatter and it would be forgotten.
My breath catches in my throat now, even as I am writing this, to think that I will never do any of these things with her again.  At least, not in this life.  Not as who we are to each other now.

However, in death she was nearly just as difficult as when she was living.  None of her affairs were in order. She had appointed none of us power of attorney or executor – something we should have pushed for, I realize – and she made no will and expressed no final wishes, except for one.  Being that we take in her two Himalayan cats (again, without regard to whether our living situations were amenable to an extra two animals).

Between the three of us, my sisters and I paid for her crematory costs (around $1700), we contacted the proper channels who might need to know of her passing, we cleaned up her rental home, and we divided amongst us some items that we wanted to keep to remember her.  She did not have much of value, but she certainly had a lot of stuff.

Now we are left with a cardboard box three quarters full of her earthly remains.  Human ashes are much heavier than you would expect them to be.  I remember my sister cradling the box as we walked somberly from the funeral home to our car in the parking lot.

“These are the arms that held me”, she wept softly, looking down at the box.

And so the box of our mother still sits, heavy with ashes and memories, at the top shelf of a guest room closet. Maybe five months is not long enough to sort out all of our feelings about her.  I suppose we have all the time we need, though.  She’s not going anywhere.

7 Comments on The Trouble With My Mother

  1. Anton
    May 1, 2014 at 7:54 pm (7 years ago)

    I have very much the same problem with my father. He’s on a shelf in the dining room.

    Reply
    • S. Elizabeth
      May 1, 2014 at 8:15 pm (7 years ago)

      Anton, while I am of course very sorry to hear about your father, I am curious as to how long he’s been in the dining room! No judgement, I promise you.

      Reply
      • Anton
        May 1, 2014 at 9:37 pm (7 years ago)

        He died very unexpectedly last August. So about eight months now. I’m hoping once I get the last legal hurdles taken care of (thanks Dad for dying with a missing will) that I’ll be able to reach some decision about what to do for him. I honestly have no idea.

        Reply
  2. Sugar Blisters
    May 1, 2014 at 10:15 pm (7 years ago)

    Mine is in a box at my father’s house. She will remain there (and has) for some time, as her desire was for him to take her somewhere beautiful that he’s not previously been and deposit 1/2 of her there. The other half is to remain to be mixed with him later.
    I think it takes most (if not all) our lives to sort out our feelings about our parents.

    Reply
  3. lau
    May 13, 2014 at 1:36 am (7 years ago)

    i have my dad’s urn still, but his ashes have been put in a bench (??) in a cemetery. my aunt didn’t want the urn, and neither did i, really, but now i’m glad i took it. with the warning not to look inside, because there would still be residue ash in there. i was also warned not to look inside when we got it in the mail from thailand (where he died), because their methods of cremation are rudimentary and often chunks of bone and teeth are left behind. they also do group cremations, so who knows who else was in there, or even if any of him was. it’s a huge, brass fucker of an urn. heavy as heavy can be.

    anyways. not sure why i wanted to tell you all of that — but coming from a selfish, difficult human parent myself, i just wanted to say i understand so much of this, a thousand times over.

    Reply
  4. Anna
    May 20, 2014 at 2:00 pm (7 years ago)

    Mom said she would put dad’s ashes in one of a pair of matching urns that were given to them at their wedding. That was almost three years ago. The cremains box sits on a table, no particular place of honor, in a corner of my mother’s bedroom. Still in that awful green velveteen bag. Five months is still a fresh wound, and there are no rules for this. You have time.

    Reply
  5. Jen
    July 25, 2014 at 9:00 pm (7 years ago)

    I can relate all to well as to what to do with the ashes of your mother. My own mother passed away when I was a very young child and to this day her ashes remain in a box, her death was a tragedy for my family, and remains an unspoken sadness.

    I suppose what is hardest is my father is a wood carver, he has made beautiful excuisite urns, including one for my grandfather, and for my mother I believe he is still dumbfounded as to what to do.

    For years I took care of my mother’s ashes, kept them in my closet, mainly forgetting them, but then every once in awhile I would find them and realize what a strange sad circumstance it was that I had her ashes in my closet.

    Reply

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