Working has put a hold on my memoir editing, so I wanted to remind myself that I’m not done.
Here, I talk about the day in 2009 when I had some ashes removed from Roger’s urn to have transferred to the cemetery:
I couldn’t help but wonder what was next. People started to leave and as much as I wanted to restore life back to normal, it was impossible. Also, when things calmed down, something else came up. It was a time of unrest and confusion, and the tasks I had to do kept me busy and were welcomed; well, most of them.
In order to have a marker put down at the veterans’ cemetery in town, they needed actual remains, so I made an appointment to go in with Roger’s urn. The day came to transfer some of his ashes into a smaller urn to be buried, and I was thankful to still have my friend staying with me. I didn’t have to go alone.
Auntie and I got into her avocado colored Jeep Wrangler which never had its doors or top on. I remember wearing a black sundress, my hair was in its North Carolina muggy messy bun, and my turquoise flip flops were tucked under my left arm. It had been weeks since his death, so I believe I was wearing lip gloss again. Light pink.
I cradled Roger’s urn tightly to my chest, buckled my seat belt, and lit a cigarette. I dragged deep onto that, inhaling my own death, as we made our way.
Mercedes with chrome details and lifted pickup trucks with big tires swirled around the road as I held my dead husband’s ashes. I moved him to the floor between my bare feet after a bump in the road concerned me. Delirium circled us in her glorious clouds as our little hairs stuck to our sweaty cheeks. There was sun but it wasn’t showing. People were going to K-Mart, first dates, baseball practice, and McDonald’s. They were driving along with their music, smiling at what their boss wore, or griping about their broken acrylic nail. They were late for hair appointments and early for affairs. It was simply absurd. We talked to the urn pretending or believing it mattered to him.
The funeral home was only five minutes from my house on Shamrock Drive, but I remember the drive lasting longer than that. Laughter was trapped in my chest and gut as I wrestled with the absurdity of my life and current place in Jacksonville’s daily events. I wanted to cry with and laugh with delirium. I felt the air tug at my body and imagined tumbling out of the Jeep into nothingness or a nice peaceful rest. Auntie and I knew we shouldn’t really look at each other.
The Jeep’s tires crunched the asphalt as she turned into the parking lot at the funeral home in Jacksonville, NC. I wriggled my feet into my teal Old Navy flip flops and jumped down from the Jeep. I picked up his urn from the floor and pressed it to my chest. I embraced it in a strong squeeze, purposely making it hard for me to breathe, making some of my pain physical. We walked into the front lobby and I felt the cool air envelope my bare shoulders and face as we left the July air. The front room was darkened and empty, and our feet were cushioned by soft, Turkish rugs. The chairs looked too nice to sit on with their velvet crimson cloth. A little man came out, light brown hair and wearing jeans and a polo shirt.
“How much do you need?” I asked the funeral director who usually wore a suit.
“About a handful,” he plainly yet politely said.
I looked at Auntie and she mirrored my face. I handed my husband in his box over to the man, and he nodded and said, “It’ll only take five minutes.” I prayed for his hands to not be sweaty.
We sat on the imported furniture with our Target clothes and looked around. What we were doing was ludicrous like something one would watch on a sitcom, yet it wasn’t funny. I touched the plush carpet with my big toe to feel its softness as I starred in my own sitcom. The man entered our silence with outstretched arms. He was holding Roger’s condensed body in the urn. I couldn’t help but believe it felt lighter as I received it and hugged its squareness.
“Have a good day,” he nodded, and walked away before we did.
We drove home with less craze and confusion than our ride there. Our shoulders were a little lower and the clouds were grayer. I lit my menthol cigarette, and intentionally inhaled more of my life away. I placed his urn carefully between my ankles and squeezed it so he wouldn’t fall out. We made our way back to Shamrock.
A day or two later or who even knows, I filled out the paperwork for the cemetery.
“What am I going to write on his marker?” I asked Auntie, “I only have a few spaces.”
“You’ll know when it comes to you.”
I could have written “Father and Husband,” or “Proud Soldier.” Instead, on his marker in the cemetery, under his name, rank, and awards, people read:
SIMPLE MAN, QUIET HERO