When Tim died, I had him cremated. What he would have wanted. His body was turned to ash at a cemetery just a few miles from the house he grew up in, on a sad stretch of Rt 1 in urban New Jersey. A cemetery we had passed countless times on drives to visit his family.
The day I flew to Madison to retrieve our belongings from our apartment, his ashes arrived via FedEx. Packaged in a generic plastic box with his name printed on the front. For the past year, Tim’s remains have existed in that box, tucked in a cabinet in my parent’s house.
I initially did not know what to do with the ashes I had in my possession. I have no intention of keeping Tim forever. I have given bits of him to friends and family, scattered him in Rahway Park, the Charles River, under a flowering crab tree on my parent’s property, and in the gardens outside the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. More of him will go to Wingra Lake in Madison, WI, The Connecticut River running through the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts, the sands of Cannon Beach, OR and China Beach in San Fransisco. Bits of Tim will be sprinkled amongst the buttress roots of our favorite tree in Sarasota Florida. Some will go in my flower gardens. What remains will fly with my children and myself to Ireland, the country Tim always dreamed of visiting but never had the chance to see.
Because I had planned on spreading Tim in all the places he loved, I did not initially buy him an urn. It seemed like just one more heartbreaking task to take on amongst the legal documents and financial concerns. As time has gone by, however, I started wanting to find a home for Tim. A more permanent, dignified vessel in which he could reside.
Throwing an urn at the pottery studio seemed like a good idea, but I wanted to make sure the piece reflected who Tim was and not what I wanted to make for him. Most urns I found online seemed tacky, too generic, too ornate, too boring. I started thinking about a wooden urn that reflected Tim’s warm, solid nature and started scouring the internet for handmade pieces.
One night I came across the right urn for Tim. A hand turned, black walnut urn with a modern, almost space-ship like design. The grain, color, and shape seemed perfect. Something Tim would have likely picked out for himself.
It arrived today. Two days before I close on our new home, Tim’s new home came in the mail. I placed the bag containing his ashes in it. I put in his favorite tattered wallet, a memorial card from his celebration of life, the malfunctioning compass he found at a thrift shop and loved to wear, and his “Wisconsin for Bernie” pin. Little pieces of who he was amongst what remains of him.
I look forward to putting him on a shelf, surrounded by his books and journals. I’m glad to have him in a fitting container. One that I know he would have loved.
It’s funny the things that can bring you bits of joy.
My stardust love in a wooden jar.