Wednesday, May 25, 2011

On the Humor of Our Grieving ...

.... and a paragraph about a dream.

This is a post I wrote back in March of 2008, three months after Jim died.
The kids and I traveled to Oklahoma, where Jim was born and where we both grew up.  Well, he grew up in one part of Oklahoma, I grew up in another.

Anyway, we went to the farm where Jim was raised for a very solemn purpose.  
We were going to spread half of his ashes there (the other half were to be spread later, at our lake house in Texas).
Jim's brother, sister-in-law and their daughter were also there from California.  Jim's other brother and his wife, who live nearby, were also there.  So it seemed like an appropriate time to attend to this gloomy task.

I have to tell you ..... in case you haven't realized it by now, I have a wicked sense of humor.  As do my children.  As did Jim.  
Thus, it's difficult to know who they got it from.  
But I digress.

The following post is about the spreading of Jim's ashes.  Or at least the spreading of half of them (and truth be told .... the spreading of the second half wasn't much different than the first).
I wish we had taped it.  Someone offered to take pictures, but I found that thought to be a little morbid.
That was before what shall henceforth be known as "The Spreading".

     We are back.  This picture is from Easter 1995 with Son #2.  This is where we played with the kids on the farm, flew kites, played football with the boys and uncles, etc.  This is where the original family house stood (the current house is behind me, the picture-taker).  This is where Jim's ashes are (some of them).  That was difficult and humorous and difficult some more.  I wasn't sure what to do -- I've never done this before.  No one wanted to be the "one" to do it.
Except for Son #3, who came right up and said, "I'll do it.  Do you want me to do it?"  I asked him if he was sure and he said yes.  I have amazing children.

I need to point out that Son #3 had, of course, never done this before, either --- and it was apparent.  He would put his hand in the bag and then spread them out around him, kind of shaking his hand a little with each release of a few ashes.
My father-in-law muttered, "He looks like he's feeding chickens." and he was right.  That's exactly what it looked like so everyone started chiming in and making suggestions, while trying in vain to not crack up.  I had of flash of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" when Mary and the gang went to the funeral of Chuckles the Clown (and yes, I realize that I am truly dating myself with that reference).  It is very, very difficult to refrain from inappropriate laughter during times of stress.
There was a fair amount of wind so I suggested that Son #3 throw the ashes up in the air, which he promptly did.  Right over his head.  Then we all started yelling for him to get out from underneath the ashes that were coming straight back down, which he managed to do -- barely.
By this time the laughter could not, and would not be contained.
I thought I was going to wet myself.
And am not certain that I didn't.

Oh, and every once in a while Son #3 would look at his hand and then wipe it on his jeans .... much to Daughter #1's horror.
She kept yelling, "Stop wiping your hand on your jeans!!!" and everyone laughed.  No, "laughed" isn't quite the right word.
We were actually guffawing (well, by "we" I mean everyone except Jim's dad).
We were almost hysterical at the thought of 'Dad/Jim being on the Son's jeans'.

It was not a serious affair.
I think my father-in-law was disappointed in us.
But I know, with certainty that Jim was happy.
Very, very happy.
As I said before .... he had a wicked sense of humor.
And .... as Daughter #1 said, "We already had the service.  We have already gone through the eulogies and the talking and the grieving at his "Goodbye".  I don't want to do it again."
I thoroughly agreed.

But before we finished I asked if anyone wanted to say anything and my father-in-law did.  He talked to Jim in kind of a prayer.  And we cried.

And then we were done.

That night I had a dream.  When I remembered it Friday morning while I was getting ready to leave, I stopped and smiled.

In my dream Jim suddenly appeared to me.  Out of thin air.  I looked at him in surprise, but not shock (it was a dream, after all).  He said to me, "Don't worry -- I can see you all of the time and I'm here with you.  I'm watching you and the kids.  It's OK -- I'm here."  I asked him if that was really true and he said yes.  Then he was gone.  I'm not sure exactly what happened next, but I was in some kind of situation.  Afterwards, he came to me again.  He told me exactly what had just happened and what I had done.  He said that to prove to me that he actually did see me.  And I was happy.  Very, very happy.   And I was happy to remember it.  I told the kids about it, and I told Jim's mom about it.  Her eyes lit up again at that thought.

So do mine.


  1. That’s really neat that you and he are still in contact. Powerful testimony...

  2. I love the humor, and the part about him telling you he was still here. That is my biggest hope...that he is still around here somewhere. And I have received signs. Not so much lately, though. (2 years) Thanks for putting this out there.

  3. Dave was buried not cremated but I don't imagine there's any graceful way to spread ashes! I recall a friend talking about her mom spreading her father's ashes last summer on the lake at their cabin, and it was very awkward as well. It's great that you can see the humor in it!

    Your dream is awesome! I love having dreams like that. It feels so real for days afterwards. I know I dream of Dave more than I can recall. My most recent dream was him calling me at work to tell me that he was finally back home. I knew that he had died, but I still asked him where he'd been. He replied that he was with God and seeing the universe. Then I vaguely recall going for a walk with him along a river bank. I lingered on that dream for days and days.

  4. My dad died two years ago in June. We went back to Minnesota on vacation and my stepmom gave us some of his ashes. My daughters wanted to spread them in the lake. I was very sick and not feeling up to anything but lying on the couch. I told my youngest (8 at the time) to see how the wind was blowing first. The next thing I knew she was back in the house, covered in ash (all over her beautiful black face), with eyes as big as saucers, screaming, "I've got grandpa on me, I've got grandpa on me" I think I wet my pants laughing so hard at the look on her face and seeing her covered in ash. We still laugh about it to this day.
    Sheri ( a lurker)

  5. My husband came and saw me in a dream too at 3 months weird. Clearest dream I ever had. He agreed this was hard. But he was happy, and healthy, and radiant and that is the memory I cling to. I have him, his ashes, in the closet, literally. I can't let him go yet at just shy of 7 months. someday I will...but not yet...but wiping him on my jeans while trying to spread him in some amazing ceremony.... Well now, that would be us too! Cheers Janine, you brought a bright start to my day.

  6. I spread my husband's ashes in a favorite place of ours. We spent a lot of time along the North Shore of Lake Superior and one of our favorite places is Gooseberry Falls State Park. I hiked up above the upper falls, where most tourists do not go, and gently let his ashes go into the river. He took a final, gentle ride over the series of waterfalls into the big lake. I love the look on people's faces when they ask and I say, I threw Frank's ass over Gooseberry Falls! That is the kind of guy he was, and that is the sort of thing he would have found funny, and I know, somehow, he did enjoy the ride.