What I Learned by Moving 3,000 Miles Away from my Mom’s Ashes

My step-father kept his mother’s ashes in the brown mailer box they came in for almost a decade. His mother Margaret expressed wanting her ashes taken to Hawaii, and instead the box lived behind his button-down shirts, in the back of the closet. My mom didn’t want that to be her.

Photo credit: Jennifer Mathews, 2007

Before her surgery, when we didn’t have a clue she had pancreatic cancer, my mom said she wanted to tell me her wishes in case she died. She hadn’t expressed this to anyone else. I asked if she could wait and tell me in 25 years? She gave me a long hug.

She said she’d like to be cremated and for her remains to be “scattered with the birds in Vermont.”

My mom loved birds. She watched them every day in her backyard and took photographs of them often. And although she lived in Western New York, Vermont had been my home at the time, the place I lived and loved for fifteen years. I was her only child. So her request made sense to me.

But I immediately knew what she meant on a deeper level. She was asking for her ashes to be set free among the trees and sky. Don’t leave me in a box. Promise me my body will fly free.

Translation: Promise me my spirit will fly free.

She died 16 weeks later.

Invisible Poem: A Meditation on the Mountain

This writing was inspired by time I spent this summer at the Big Spring at South Gate Meadow in Mount Shasta, CA. I so love the timelessness of being in nature in this way. I offer this poem as a reminder of that which remains wordless . . . Enjoy!

Photo credit: iStockphoto.com/Varghona

Invisible Poem

Today I sit
and wait.

Pen poised, poem patient.

Bright green moss
merges with smooth stones
in the mountain stream.

Bumblebees hum softly
flower to flower, dip
into crimson orange
of an Indian Paintbrush.

Clouds color a hazy sky
with gradients of gray.

This is the beauty
poems are made of . . .

But not today.

Today I sit
and wait.

Pen poised,
poem patient,
I wonder
if I can ever be
slow enough
to write the present
before it becomes the past.
If I can ever be
that patient.

Pen poised, I sit.

And sit.

Page blank as clouds float.
Page blank as bees drink.
Page blank as moss grows.

It is the truest verse
I have ever
not written.

Jennifer Mathews

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