cell phone self-portrait

cell phone self-portrait
things are looking up

Friday, June 01, 2007

A Little Wisdom Gained

In my office, for a few years now, I've had posted a poem called "What I Want."

After I'm dead, cremate me.
Take what is left over from my body,
put it in a black cotton cinch-bag
with a long strong cord.

Wait until mid to late July,
and at sundown
hang me betwixt the branches of
the Bishop pines north of Caspar.

Take precautions to tie me high up
in the black green of the shadows.
Make the knot tight.
I never liked to fall.

Don't look at me as you drive past.
I want the bag to rot in its own sweet time.
I want the first rip to start froma bird
needing a string for a nest.

I want my ashes to spill out,
ride on the wind with the pollen
from the pine cones.
I want my bones to scramble to earth
so an owl can pick one as a stone
for its belly to grind food.
Then the owl in freedom's flight
I can trust, will say,

I love that poem, and I thought it went along with my philosophies about death and funerals and the like --- none of that for me --- I wanted to be cremated. Then, in March of this year, my mother died. She was honored and buried and memorialized in the traditional way. I was surrounded by family --- my mother had thirteen brothers and sisters, and I have dozens of cousins who also have children. They held me close, made me smile, and brought me photographs and memories of my mother when she was young and healthy and happy. I had nearly forgotten those times before Mama got sick and suffered so much and changed so much. Seeing her in the late 70's, with her long red hair blowing in the wind as she sat on a bicycle brought her back to life for me, and the memories have continued to flow back as time goes by. What I learned from all this is that we need to be with family when we are grieving. The shared experiences, shared memories, shared pain, and shared love mean so much and help us to heal. I am deeply thankful to my family for teaching me this lesson. So, when I die, even if my daughter still wants to follow the advice in the poem above, that will be fine with me --- as long as she gathers her loved ones close --- and people who knew me and can help her remember the happy times. It isn't good for us to grieve alone, and even seeing Mama laid out to rest, with her hair done and a little touch of a smile on her pretty face, in her beautiful dress with her sweet hands resting --- it did me good. It helped me to say goodbye again --- a different, more celebratory goodbye than the one we had at the nursing home, when I held her as she took her last breaths. I realize now that there are these different kinds of goodbye, different acknowledgments of the letting go --- and then there are, again, the hellos. Hello, Mama. I see you smiling proudly in the photo on my desk, sitting as you always did with your excellent posture, surrounded by your sisters and brothers and Granny and Papa Moon. You are with me always.

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