Grandma C's BlogGMAS Blog

Ashes, Auden, and a New Day

I went shopping in downtown Montpellier with Wizard, my grandson (one of my favorite shopping companions as well as my go-to IT guy), looking for a wedding gift for a friend back in the United States.

For some reason, I couldn’t resist checking out vases in the housewares department.

I’d been shopping for a vase for a while without being aware of why. That day, I suddenly realized I was looking for something to put Dick’s ashes in.

Until now, the ashes had been safely stored in a double plastic resealable bag in my bedroom dresser drawer. I had secured them for transport in my luggage from California to my new home in France, hoping that airport inspection officials didn’t mistake them for a stash of an illegal drug.

As odd as it may seem to you (and sometimes even to me), I wanted to keep his ashes close to me in France.

I learned later that I was lucky to have made it through the airport inspection with the ashes. Some airlines don’t let you bring them at all; others allow them in checked bags only. Plus, I should have been carrying documentation verifying the cremation, proof that I was his wife, and a death certificate. Despite my ignorance of the rules, the mission was accomplished.

An Accidental Purchase

To my surprise, while barely looking, I found a vase that appealed to me, and the price was right. It didn’t have a lid, but I thought I could be inventive in how I sealed it.

When we finished our shopping excursion and were back home, I asked Wizard to help me with the unusual (to say the least) job of pouring Grandpa’s ashes into the vase without spilling any. He was at first taken aback by the request but quickly joined me in a good-humored effort to put Grandpa to rest in his vase.

As we struggled to get the ashes through the narrow neck of the vase, I couldn’t resist joking and laughing about our serious task. My well-brought-up grandson reminded me that these ashes represented someone who was dearly loved, and I should be respectful. He was right.

At the same time, I reminded him that one of the bonds between Grandpa and me was our mutual unconventional sense of humor. And somehow, we managed to find something to laugh about even in the grimmest of circumstances, including his last few days.

At first, I carefully held a funnel over the opening of the vase and Wizard tried to pour the ashes in. But the ashes kept getting stuck in the small hole.

Then we reversed roles and I poured while he jiggled the spout to see if we could move the ashes faster. No luck.

Finally, we took the bull by the horns and began pouring the ashes directly into the vase from the plastic bag. That worked efficiently.

When we finished emptying the bag, I went next door to my son’s house in search of something to use as a lid. On the way, I saw a few smooth rocks that had possibilities. But in my son’s house, much to my delight, I found a small, flat, round piece of cork that I was certain would work. I brought it back, checked the size, and discovered that it fit perfectly. I ordered some glue from Amazon and set the project aside.

With any luck, I’ll finish my project in time for what would have been our 30th anniversary.

Over a lovely dinner already planned by my son, Expresso, and his wife, Attenderella, I am sure we will drink a toast of wine to Dick—he loved his red wine dearly—and we’ll laugh at the stories accumulated over our thirty years together.

Dick enjoyed a nightly glass of red wine

(Photo by Thomas Franke)

And after the dinner is over, I’ll go home by myself to my own house. Before I turn off the light, I’ll reread W. H. Auden’s poem “Funeral Blues.”

In the daytime, I’m mostly strong. But as the sun sets and my energy declines, sadness creeps in at the edge of my awareness. It’s then that I miss most “my North, my South, my East and West.”

Then I’ll glance over at the vase with the cork lid and say aloud, “Good night, Dick.” And the next morning, I’ll be strong again when I hear the neighborhood rooster telling me (and everyone else within hearing range) to rise and shine. It’s a new day!