Motes of my Mother

Motes of my Mother.

By David Milligan-Croft.

As I popped open the lid of the cylinder, 

A faint cloud of ash escaped from within. 

Motes of my mother floated in the morning sun. 

Drifting off into the atmosphere to settle who knows where.

Perhaps somewhere sunny, like Tahiti, she’d like that.

Or maybe just the bookshelf.

As I spooned some of her ashes into a small ceramic jar – 

A keepsake for my daughter – 

I felt the sudden urge to sneeze.

I froze momentarily, unsure whether to deposit her remains

Back into the large urn, or continue with my task,

And risk dropping some of her in the sink.

Or, worse still, blowing her onto the window.

I twisted my face to my shoulder

In order to stifle the impending sneeze

And lessen any resulting tremors.

It was while I was looking down

Into the larger urn that I wondered just how much

Of this ash was actually my mother. If, in fact,

Any of it was. How would I know if we had someone else’s ashes?

Would the remnants of her dna still cling to these dusty particles?

And, how much of the ash is human, and how much is coffin?

Do they take the brass fittings off first? Whose job is that?

If I dig deep enough, will I find a piece of shoe, or tooth, or bone?

So many questions.

Then I thought of my mother rolling her eyes and laughing 

And saying, “Silly bugger.” Or something like that.

Then the urge to sneeze disappeared.

And I carefully continued spooning the ashes 

Into the ceramic pot and gently closed the lid.

She’ll be safer with my daughter, I thought.

11 Comments

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11 responses to “Motes of my Mother

  1. There’s a blend of humor and sadness here that touched me. And on a lighter note I’ve also wondered about some of the questions you ask here, picturing it being me, and then I think, oh I don’t have to worry about this! I’ll be beyond knowing or caring!

    • Thank you Claudia. That is the tone I was hoping to express. And I hoped my mother wouldn’t mind me making light of such a solemn subject. She’d come to expect me saying inappropriate things at inappropriate times anyway. It has taken me a year to pluck up the courage to open the container that her ashes were contained in and look at what ‘remains’ of her.

      • My father died last summer and my sister still has him (in his container) at her home, as she plans to take him this summer to where my mother is buried for interment (it’s some distance away, he moved to be near my sister when my mother died, and she hasn’t been able yet to make the trip). She has several times said to me she hoped he wasn’t mad he hasn’t gotten there yet. I said just make sure you put him in the front seat so he doesn’t get carsick. We laughed ourselves silly over this. I think it is just another way to say goodbye and accept things, this kind of humor, and I think your mother would like to know how you are still thinking of her. And caring about her.

  2. Anonymous

    Kevin wanted a prearranged thought-about-time to scatter his mother’s ashes. Not a throwaway sprinkling. Not a windy day, obviously. It turned out to be 23rd April 2020 in lockdown, at two o’clock, after lunch, and feeling blessed. Under the apple tree full of white apple blossom and the red tulips under, we scattered Doreen. In dappled sunlight I thought about how she didn’t want to share Kevin, and the battles we had, and how we’d made our peace in the end (with a furious row). Life really.

    • You paint a beautiful, melancholy picture. I’ll probably scatter some of her ashes one day. I’m sure I’ll know when and where when the time comes. It’s taken me a year to open the container. Just want to avoid any Big Lebowski moments. Love to you and Kevin. Dx

  3. GP

    What a wonderful post for your mother. It all sounded so human, the mind wandering to different ideas so quickly, and a hint of self-doubt throughout.

    • Thank you GP, that’s very kind. It’s hard to accept someone has ‘gone’. That they are just ash. Until someone can say with definitive proof that there is nothing else after this, there is always hope… that they are ‘somewhere’.

  4. Scenes in motion all throughout from the start to the end. So many thoughts came into your mind while looking at those beloved ashes. I can’t help but smile a bit. Thanks for sharing.

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