We buried my mother-in-law on Saturday. I should hasten to mention that she died, and quite some time ago. And that she was cremated. And that her remains have been residing on the bookcase in our family room. Perhaps not the worst place to be consigned, but certainly not what she wanted or planned.
What she planned was to be buried in her family plot in Hamilton, and it took us over a year to find a day where everyone was available. Particularly problematic was the fact that the gravediggers only work on weekends on Saturday mornings. With three of the four grandchildren in university, we had to wait until exams were finished. Even with the date fixed, panic ensured at the last minute when we realized that we had no minister, no ritual planned, and, shockingly, no box in which to inter her. The remains came in a brown paper package, and clearly this would not do, so on Friday John picked up a mini casket, for lack of a better term, from a funeral home, and transferred the ashes himself. The mini casket, FYI, was ridiculously expensive, and came with a purple velvet drawstring bag. You would be forgiven for thinking we were burying a large bottle of Crown Royal.
And so it was that we set out for the Hammer on Saturday, John driving, Aidan hung over and asleep in the back, and Ronan and I frantically looking up readings and music on the Ipad. My MIL was an atheist, and although she wanted – and had – a church funeral, by virtue of the fact that her aunt had married an archbishop, she didn’t have much use for the word of God and the people who spread it. A hurried consult with my sister-in-law over the phone resulted in several poems extolling the beauty of nature, and a couple of secular sounding hymns. At the last minute, Helen remembered to stop off for flowers.
We all met up at the gravesite, and had the place to ourselves. Because it was close to the road, we pulled our car up close, and played the music off the car speakers while we passed around the Ipad to do our readings. What started out looking like an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” turned into a surprisingly moving and heartfelt little ceremony. It ended with a rendition of “Those Were The Days My Friend”, which apparently was my MIL’s favourite song. There was much eye rolling among the grandchildren, but by the fifth verse everyone was singing along. It was all as awkward and unpretentious and loving as the woman herself had been. There are worse ways to say goodbye, although the actual goodbyes were said long ago. This was just dealing with the packaging.