‘Til Death

"The Garden of Eden" by Lucas Cranac...

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Most married couples have this romantic expectation of spending eternity together. Buried side by side. Reuniting in heaven. It’s the kind of thing Hollywood makes movies about and Celine Dion warbles at us. But, what if there isn’t an eternity. No physical possibility of lying side by side. And heaven isn’t anymore real than the Garden of Eden?

Something I read on the YWBB got me thinking again about being buried. Someday. After I am dead. I have always maintained that my daughter should be the one to decide the final resting place of my earthly remains. Where I am will matter most to her after all. But, that was before Rob. Where I rest would matter to him as well now.

Dee’s father is buried in a little Catholic cemetery in a little town in Iowa where the bar that he played pool league out of is located. Will didn’t want his ashes scattered to the wind, even if I could have found a way to place him in the end zone at Heinz’s Stadium, because he didn’t want to be ashes. He wanted to be buried. He never specified where though he ruled out a few places most emphatically. Like Pella, where both of his parents are from and his father is buried. He hated Pella, and he didn’t much care for his father either. And Norwalk. The bedroom community he grew up in and considered a splat on the map for the most part – though I suspect he knew if he was buried too close to where his mother lived, she would cover his grave in death swag and bling. He loathed the idea of becoming a shrine like the ones you see along the side of the road.

Economically, a full burial was never an option I could promise him. It was partly luck that I learned of St. John’s and was able to afford to intern his ashes there. His name alone is on the headstone though there is room for mine, I suppose if I planned to stay in Iowa. But that was never the plan, even before Rob, I didn’t see myself here in another year or maybe two.

Will believed that a person’s soul went to heaven when he/she died. He believed that you met God. He told me once that he it would “suck” having to wait all those years for me because he knew I was going to be very old when I died. I told him not to worry that he would have my second husband to keep him company. He didn’t think that was funny, but I never could make him laugh. “You’re just not that funny, babe,” he used to tell me. Ironically, Rob holds much the same opinion of me.

I didn’t save any of Will’s cremains. I buried the container unopened. I literally buried it. With no money it was just me, Katy and the sexton standing over this little hole in the ground. The sexton, a very nice old man who had showed me his own plot the day I went to pick out Will’s, recited the “Our Father” and I placed the urn in the ground myself. I am a bit sorry now that I don’t have some of the ashes to take with me to Canada, but there is nothing to do about it now. As I told Rob when he asked, I am fairly certain there are laws against digging up your dead husband’s urn simply because you’re moving to another country, but to his credit, Rob offered to sneak out there with me under cover of darkness and help me dig Will up. Being arrested for unearthing my dead husband’s remains was not high on my bucket list, so I declined.

Truthfully, I feel only a sense of failure when I visit his grave anymore. It will actually be a relief not to feel obligated. In the beginning I went simply because it was something tangible to yell at or complain to or beg for help. Now it’s just a rock. He isn’t there. He was never there.

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