Thursday, May 1, 2008

Personal Note: Remembering and Honoring

On the day my mom died last August in New Mexico (and right before, sadly, my sister and brother were both killed that evening), we met with the undertaker to make the arrangements for my mother's cremation and memorial service. It was then my sister announced she was keeping my mother's ashes -- and exhuming my father's, buried 30 years earlier in Utica, NY! She wanted to put them in an urn together and keep them with her. Then, in the wake of the tragedy that followed, both sets of ashes came to me. I did not want to keep my parents' remains in an urn; that seemed as unnatural as being buried in a sealed casket. But I also didn't want to just scatter them, even in a beautiful place.

My mother and father both loved the colors of autumn. After talking it over with Bob, we decided to plant a sugar maple right where I could see it and watch it grow from all the windows at the back of our house. It was near the end of October when we started.My dear, wonderful husband did all the work, from digging up the old stump in the chosen spot to planting the new tree. I scattered my parents' ashes around the base and talked to them and cried and said a lot of prayers. I knew it was only ashes, but they felt like an important connection to the people I had so loved.It felt wonderfully reassuring to see the little tree there and know that my parents' ashes would mingle with the soil at its roots. Before the cold settled in for good, I planted 100 crocus all around the base. In my mind, where metaphors and analogies roam free and graze like herds of wild horses, I could envision them as living symbols of rebirth when the winter ends and spring returns again.

And so it did! All my little crocus popped through the soil this spring.
The purple ones are my favorites and I'll plant more of these come fall. Of course, the other question in our minds when we planted the tree last year was whether it would survive the winter. I sent a lot of loving thoughts to it.

And look at these wonderful buds. The little tree is alive and well and growing! This feels so good and true as a way to honor the love I feel for my parents. I hope to find a way to do this for my sister and brother as well.


  1. What a beautiful and meaningful tribute.

  2. Jeanne, that is such a wonderful way to celebrate their lives! I am a big believer in planting trees to honor and remember loved ones, and the Crocus is a perfect addition.