Thursday, May 26, 2005


Nearing this first Memorial Day has been difficult, perhaps more than the first Mother's Day. We had not ventured into the tricky discussion of when we could get together to place my mother's ashes in the columbarium, or niche, at the church for some time. Still, the thought that the box containing her ashes might be sitting on a shelf in some closet at the church was nagging me. I knew it had to be bothering my dad. I felt very guilty that I had not been able to fly home at the same time as my sister to meet my brother and help Dad put the ashes in the niche.

I finally brought up the subject last evening, and Dad mentioned that the church might have already placed the ashes in the niche and done the engraving once the temperature rose above freezing. It didn't seem likely to me, but I said I would call the church today.

The kind church secretary who answered my call walked out to the columbarium in the courtyard to visually verify that the engraving had been done and the niche sealed. What a weight lifted off me. I hoped Dad and my siblings would feel the same, but I worried that Dad might be upset that he hadn't been there at the time the niche was sealed. I wondered, too, why the church had not informed any of us that the ashes were placed and the engraving done. Then I realized that there must be many times when no family is left for the church to notify when ashes are placed.

When I called Dad with the news, he wept with relief. My siblings are both feeling lighter now. The columbarium is a lovely place, in fact, it is next to the lovely courtyard where I was married, a place I have always loved.

My brother plans to take Dad to "visit Mom" at the columbarium very soon, then drive him out to the Lee's on Cottingham and West Van Dorn. Lee's has always been our family's restaurant for commemorating significant occasions.

My parents very practically planned ahead, and secured space in the church courtyard columbarium when it was constructed, which was a wonderful gift to their children. It's been a gift, too, that they so realistically prepared their "Five Wishes" a few years back.


The Chapel Courtyard, to the east of the main courtyard, was redesigned as a memorial garden in 1990. The east and south walls contain columbarium niches for urns containing the ashes of those who have been cremated.
The area is intended to be a welcoming place of peace, reflection and remembrance in the midst of a busy city.

My regret now is that I didn't ask enough questions to know the ashes would be placed in the niche by the church, and to request notification when it was done. Many sleepless hours could have been prevented.

In a strange way it helps me to know that the memorials for Mom to the Morrill Hall State Museum contribute to the Museum's programs at Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park. My mother loved this park and the State Museum's ongoing excavation of mammal fossils buried in a volcanic ashfall ten million years ago.

Our sense of control is an illusion. We are all grazing on a grassland, oblivious to the volcanic rumblings. Mom would have said, "Graze well".

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