Sunday, September 6, 2015

What to do with Mom on the mantle

“So what do you want me to do with you when you die?” My daughter looked worried about the prospect of having Mom-on-the-mantle forever because we hadn’t discussed this delicate issue.

Assuming I’d be cremated, I said, “You could plant me. Plant a tree and rim it with me.”
At first she liked this idea but then her countenance quickly clouded. “But then I couldn’t ever move—unless it was an indoor tree—and it didn’t die.”

I could see her point. No kid wants to be guilty of abandoning the parents they love, even though it’s just their ashes.

The whole discussion had come to the fore because my husband and I were in a quandary about what to do with my father-in-law who’d been sitting on a shelf in the closet for the past year and a half. (Well, not him— the part that was him had long since gone onto his place in eternity—but his ashes) Pa had said if we couldn’t spread him around the handball court where he and his buddies had played long into their eighties, to “just sprinkle my ashes in the ocean.”

 It’s a common request. Has a romantic ring to it, even for a man who, although lived in Florida for his last forty years, never went to the beach. The problem is—you can’t just spread someone’s ashes around a public handball court, nor just sprinkle them anywhere in the ocean, legally, anyway. But we didn’t know that at the time, so we shipped Pa to my sister-in-law’s house in Florida and booked our plane tickets.

It was then I found out that although cremated remains are not a health risk, you have to go three miles off shore to sprinkle ashes. I called a few charter boats. The cheapest one wanted $500 for a quick trip out and back. I told my husband. He balked at the prospect.

I looked at the three heavily bandaged fingers on his left hand. He had run them through a table saw the week before and had cut one to the bone. “Well, you can’t exactly wade out into sharky waters with an open wound and set him free.” Bob shrugged. He’s a believer in a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

We headed out to Florida with no idea what we were going to do with Pa in the short time we had there. One person told me about her plan to go to the beach early in the morning and write the word LOVE in the sand with her husband’s ashes as the tide came. The jet ski rental guys told us people took ashes out with them for a lot less than a boat. Ignorance was bliss for another person who said she hadn’t known about the law and had a ceremony on a pier. No one had objected.

We did check out a pier at a park under a bridge. Bob thought he found a spot that might work even though I pointed out the Palm Beach sheriff department outpost fifty feet away. A violent thunder and lightening storm put a quick end to that scenario, thank God.

One funeral info site recommends when it comes to what to do there is a “don’t ask, don’t tell” mentality, so I’ll simply say we ended up doing what we had to do and found a lovely time and way to send Pa off.  

Later, Bob and I sat on a beach and watched the sunset filled clouds. I could just hear Pa say what he always said when I took him for rides—“What a beautiful sky.” Perfect.

For those of you who are rooted in one place, this isn’t such an issue, but for the many of us who move a lot and don’t really have a “home” it is a concern. I’ve decided I don’t want my children to feel any guilt about what to do with Mom on the mantle. I want them to be free to choose a time and place they will simply remember with pleasure.

No matter where.

Cuz I’m not really there.

God gave us memories that we might have roses in December.-J.M.Barrie

Blessings Abundant


  1. Having dealt with that same issue a couple of times over the years...

    This made me laugh. Glad it worked out!

  2. Beautifully told with grace and humor! Thanks Marcia, it's definitely something we all must consider unless the Lord returns first!

    1. Thanks Felicia. Yes! Maybe the Lord will take care of this for us!

  3. The same discussion comes up at our house too. When you've had two parents pass in one year and you are over 59 the talk happens!

  4. Yeah Susie. When there's no one in line ahead of you... I think it's good to talk a bit about death--it's a guaranteed event.


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