The Final Decision by Sojourner McConnell

ibnalStepping outside the door bumped against Meagan’s heel. The wind was brushing her hair across her face and she squinted into the sunlight. She wondered aloud “is this tornado weather?”
Studying the sky she shook her head and decided that it did not have that spark in the air that made her aware of a tornado on the horizon so she visibly relaxed.

Reaching behind her back she pulled the door firmly closed and checked it once to make sure it was locked. Sure, she remembered the days when you did not have to lock the doors in her small town, but that was not the way to stay safe anymore. Her children always reminded her to lock the door before leaving home and she complied.

Today was hard for her in so many ways. Today was the first day without her mother. Her mother had been the voice of wisdom for the last thirty five years. Here she was heading into town to pick out the urn for her mother’s ashes. She wasn’t even sure at this point if she wanted an urn to pass around from person to person. She wasn’t even sure anyone else would want her mother placed in a position of honor on a mantle in some unused living room.

Maybe one of those free spirited ceremonies where the family meets on a shoreline or a favorite mountain top and sprinkle the ashes into the wind. She kind of thought that she might become covered in ashes and that left a distasteful smirk on her face. Her luck she would swallow some of the ashes or something equally as horrid.

It really was not the best time to be the eldest of the three siblings. If she had just been born a few months after Caroline then all this would fall on someone else’s shoulders. But no, she was the eldest, so she was expected to be the mature one with all the innate knowledge of how to properly see someone off to the hereafter.

But Darn it, she didn’t have a clue. Google helped some, “thank God for Google” she muttered to herself as she plopped into the car and cranked the engine. “Who would have thought that you would have to get permission to toss ashes into the air at the local state park?” Not worth it, she thought. Not worth getting the state officials involved in this. It was enough that people were going to have to fly in from other states just to play ring toss with her mom’s ashes.

It looked like she was going to have to fly in at least four of the grandchildren if they were going to participate in this yet to be determined celebration of life. They certainly loved their Grammy and wanted to be there. It wasn’t their fault that husbands, jobs and a sense of adventure had taken them away from the family hometown.

Meagan wasn’t even sure she liked the term celebration of life, didn’t they celebrate every opportunity they had while Mom was alive? It seems a bit strange to call this event a celebration. Maybe she was just warped by grief right now.

She had not been expecting her mother to die like this for a long time. She wasn’t that old. She didn’t seem to be sick. How can a heart just give out like this? Wouldn’t there have been some signs she could have noticed to keep her mother alive longer?

Meagan shook her head and blinked back the hot tears that threatened to spill down her cheek. “Mom, I can’t believe you are gone. None of this seems real to me. Help me know what to do, what to say.”

Meagan had a sudden memory of her mom on the day that her grandmother had passed away. She could almost hear her mother telling her “Do not spend a fortune on the trappings of an elaborate funeral. It is a waste of money and I will not be there anyway. So do not make a spectacle of me when it is my time.”

Was her mother reminding her of that day so that she would know what to do? Meagan felt the peace come over her in a rush, like the incoming tide flowing over her feet at the beach. It was a warm feeling that eased away so much of the fear she was feeling.

“Mom, Is that you?” Meagan closed her eyes for a moment and just breathed in the calm peaceful spirit in the car. Opening them she noticed the light had turned green and she sped along the main street heading toward the only Funeral home in town.

Mr. Aldwin met her at the door and held out his hand to her in a consoling gesture. “You must be Mrs. Brand, I am so sorry for your loss. If you will come with me we can take care of the arrangements for Mrs. Jefferson. I know you have a lot to do today. We will try to make this as painless as possible.”

Meagan nodded and frozenly followed him into an office filled with thick hard binders that featured caskets and urns. She felt like she was in a dream. She almost snickered at his grim expression that was meant to convey pity and understanding. It really did nothing but make her uncomfortable and a little embarrassed. Yes, she felt grief, but she did not feel that she was going to make this the huge program he expected her to purchase.

Her mother surely sent her that memory so that she would not end up as Aunt Jayne had, broke and struggling to make ends meet, while her dead husband laid in the most expensive casket in town. She remembered that conversation and it was drumming in her head louder than Mr. Aldwin’s voice. “Do not pay for the additional police escort.” Once again the voice in her head referring back to Uncle Chuck’s parade of police cars that cost Aunt Jayne more than she had allotted to spend.

The entire morning had been filled with bits and pieces of memories that had been told to her in preparation for this day. She never realized it until now, but she was being given the knowledge to survive the process of planning her mother’s funeral. She just never thought about it that way, until now.

Mr. Aldwin brought out all of the 8×10 glossy photographs of the available caskets and urns and flipped through them one by one. Making small comments about the upgrades and the accessories that each entailed. Silks, satins, and velvet in all colors were presented to her in vibrant color.

Meagan’s head pounded. The throbbing matched her heartbeat and it thrummed throughout her body until it crested in her head with forceful blows.

“I have decided on cremation. That is what Mom wanted and I have decided to go along with her wishes.” She spoke more forcefully than she had intended and Mr. Aldwin looked rather taken aback. “In place of an urn, I would like to bring a vase that she loved. It is carnival glass and it meant so much to her. Is that a problem?”

Mr. Aldwin agreed that that would be fine and assured her that they could have the funeral before the cremation took place for visitors and family to say their final farewell. After all the paperwork was filled out, Meagan left and went back to her home. She called her sister and brother and explained her decisions and her rationale for those decisions.

Caroline and Glenn were both very understanding and agreeable to her choices and asked if they could join her at her home that evening to talk about things.

“Of course, I want to see you all. Come as soon as you wish. I will be here all evening. Tomorrow is another day of errands and trying to get everyone here for her service. We have to decide what we want to do with Mom’s ashes. I want you both to help me decide.”
Within an hour all three siblings were seated around the large oak dining room table with a cup of coffee in hand and a paper and pencil in front of them.

It wasn’t long before the giggling started. All it took was Meagan stating in her clear no nonsense voice, “I do not want to have Mom’s ashes in my hair or my mouth. I say we bury the ashes in Mom’s garden.”

“Eww, gross Meagan,” Caroline shivered and announced.

Glenn looked mortified as he too shook his head strongly at his sister. He was speechless until that first rumble of laughter burst out of his mouth.

He tried to cover his mouth before anyone noticed, but it was too late. Once that first peal of laughter sprang forth they all burst into laughter. The laughter was interspersed with hiccuped sobs and lingering giggles.

All three looked at each other and smiled. This is how their mother would want them to handle her death. Not with formal police escorts and flower strewn cemeteries, but with laughter and love and memories.
They came to the conclusion that they did not want a windy beach or a mountain top scattering, they wanted to gather in their mom’s garden. Bring as many family members as possible and place her in the well-tilled soil of her rose garden.

Four days later with family, friends and former co-workers that is exactly how they said their final farewell to the woman that loved her family and her garden.

Everyone remarked on how much she would have loved the laughter that spilled through her yard as they told stories and shared memories of a sweet loving wonderful woman that was known as Helen Jefferson, Mom and Grammy.


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