My dad was cremated.
He made sure that his body was donated for research first, to try to find more information about some joint issues and a nerve disorder that showed up for him in his last years. We thought that they would spend about a year researching before his cremation, but it took a mere month. I’m not sure what that means – maybe there was too much damage to research longer? Maybe his tissue or organs were too old? It’s not for me to know.
So, he showed up in the mail.
Now, there have been a couple of times in my life when I have been shocked at the truth, because no one ever talks about it. The first was when I was pregnant, and what really goes on with your body when you’re pregnant. Not “the glow” or “this much weight gain” or anything “normal” like that, but things like burping (or sneeze/peeing or laugh/farting) during a conversation completely unexpectedly, or trying to figure out how to have sex when you’re the size of a cow (or figuring out if you even want to). I’m about to talk to you about some truth as it pertains to cremation.
Your loved one will come, completely unannounced, in a regular old white box about the size of two shoeboxes put together. Sometimes, that box leaks a little, and that will freak you out since you’re dispensing some of YOUR DAD in the CAR because you have to transport him to determine how much of him your sisters and son and mother want. After your freak out, you will put the box into a very large ziploc bag, one that you’ve saved to keep large maps dry, because, well, who knows this protocol?
After gathering around the kitchen table with a bottle of Peppermint Schnapps and your husband and your son and your daughter-in-law, you tentatively open the ziploc bag and then the regular old white box. Inside, you’ll find a form letter saying “thank you” from the research and cremation people, and then you’ll find a heavy-duty plastic bag filled with something that looks like kitty litter with a tag on it that’s twist-tied for less leakage (?).
But not really.
I’ll switch to first person here. At this point, the four of us looked at each other with wide eyes and said almost in unison, “Now what?” I then blurted out the question on everyone’s mind, “Do we get a measuring cup?”
So we did. We got a freaking measuring cup and smaller, sandwich-size ziploc bags and WHY ISN’T THERE A SET OF INSTRUCTIONS THAT GO ALONG WITH THIS? Or even a, “Remains for Dummies” manual? Who knows this?
I started laughing a little hysterically and then my eyes starting stinging and Hank grabbed me in a big hug and I wailed something like, “This is HARD.”
So that really is it.
Dad, here’s to you, #46444. As a friend of mine said, you continue to teach.
And it’s STILL HARD.