The Real Memorial: Releasing His Ashes

May 5, 2017

By Sanda Rathamone
May 5, 2017

pc: deliciafeathers
A memorial is not just for those we have known, but for those we will always remember.

Initially, my husband had planned a tree planting memorial for Elijah (we had Elijah cremated and the tree planting took place of a burial). I agreed. This way, it would always be an honor to Elijah and Mother Earth and to take care of his tree as if we would a baby. To feed and watch it change and grow was hard work and rewarding. I even spent long hours hand-sewing his name on a yellow ribbon to mark his tree.

We found a baby incense cedar at a nursery, a day after we arrived home from the hospital. Making arrangements such as finding the perfect spot and setting the date and time went pretty fast and easy. To get to the spot, we would have to take a 10 minute hike down a hill and 15 minutes back up. I thought this would be a great adventure, hiking with the family. Yet, I still wasn't sure I was able to hike; my body was still healing from giving birth and my knees and legs were weakened.

However, it was getting everyone to attend and deciding how this event was going to happen that was challenging.

What set me off was that one of my husband's family members decided to add a birthday celebration after the memorial service. This was a day about my son that I will always remember and in no way did I want to remember singing "Happy Birthday" to someone else on a day to honor my dead baby. I felt the need to stay quiet about what I had felt because what could I say? This suggestion was coming from his family, I didn't want to come off rude or take away their family bonding. I figured that the birthday was convenient [for them] because everyone would be home. But, who would do such a thing, moreover, think of such a thing on a day like this?

I was grieving. It's not that I wanted everyone to be sad, I just wanted a day about us, and most importantly, about Elijah. To think of fitting in a birthday was as if the memorial was just another thing to do, to cross off a list. This day may not mean anything or much to them, but it did for me. 

Last minute on the night before, I canceled the memorial. Everyone grew frustrated. I was too busy trying to please others that it backfired. My husband and I even had an argument, which made things worse. Something just wasn't right. Or maybe I was just being too irrational with my grief?

We then agreed to extend the date for another week. It turns out that only his family came out to support us and Elijah's tree. Again, I was utterly disappointed. I didn't have anyone from my side of the family.

The memorial went "well." We hiked down, found the spot, planted his tree, read a eulogy that I had written weeks prior, made paper hearts out of it and buried it in with the soil, took photos, hiked back up, and went back home for a potluck. And that was that.

Every now and then, they would ask about the tree and how it was doing, but it didn't seem as if anyone really cared; it was simply something to talk about. If they did, they would just ask to go visit the tree with us or have done so on their own time. I didn't feel supported after the memorial, which is why I have decided to distance myself and honor my son in ways that best suits me. 

I now regret having a family memorial and instead wished it was just an intimate "us" kind of thing, which we did consider, but decided not to. We thought it wouldn't be fair to do it without family because they visited us at the hospital. We were trying to be "considerate." This is not to say that I am not grateful, but that I wanted this day to be special

But, another thing came to mind. What to do about his ashes? Should we keep them? Or do we free him? 

That's when the perfect idea came. 

We decided that we would spread his ashes wherever we felt were the best places, the places we would often visit, where we went to when I was pregnant, places where the water eases our pain, or a new spot to call "ours." It would be places that his spirit can explore, run around and play. Because we will never get to take nor see him there, because I will never know the joy of seeing his smile and hearing his laugh. And every time we made a visit, we would remember that this spot is special and sacred. That this is where he should be. 

Each trip to release his ashes felt like a quest, a duty we had to honor, something we were supposed to do. If it takes letting him go for him come back, then that's what we have done. 

We also had crows visit us 4 out of the 5 places. It was as if either the crows were waiting for him or he sent them to watch over and bless us. As if each time we let him go, they nod and caw in bravado of our strength and love or fly in their silent swooping grace of his freedom. 

The last bit of his ashes are in a cremation necklace that my husband bought for me. I can now carry him wherever I go and whenever I need him with me. What is interesting is that I seem need him more than he needs me. The thought of him does not only bring sadness, but also happiness, pride, and comfort. Because he is my son and I know that he loves me.

Maybe some day, his spirit will decide to give it another try. 

You are everywhere I am
May you always find your way back home after a day of play. 
We love and miss you everyday, Elijah.

Part 1
Part 2

Part 3

Part 4


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