The hardest moments of each day come at dawn, when I can't help remembering where Mom's remains lie at the moment: in a wooden coffin in refrigerated storage at Gates, Kingsley & Gates Moeller Murphy on Arizona Avenue at 20th St. in Santa Monica.
When my Aunt Grace died in Boulder three years ago, her remains were cremated nearby two days later, and we respectfully buried her ashes in the cemetery in Boulder a few days after that.
But as my friend Jerry Morton at Gates, Kingsley informed me and Emily a few days ago, there's a waiting line to be cremated in Los Angeles County. His mortuary uses two crematories, both of which were so much in demand that it would be at least a week until Mom's remains could be cleansed by fire.
On Thursday, the day after she died, he called me at work to report the good news: "I got a cremation for Wednesday!"
At first I was confused; it sounded as if he was going to be cremated. Then I realized I was supposed to respond by congratulating him on his good work at getting one of the last available slots for a week after she died.
Maybe he expected me to say something like, "Oh, that's great! I'm delighted!" I mumbled some kind of thanks.
My brother Jim also has strong feelings about her body lying in a refrigerator for a week: "It's disrespectful to her."
Like the good Norwegians, Danes and Finns that we are ethnically, we want that funeral pyre lit up now. We don't want her body to decay in a casket underground, nor do we want it to languish in a refrigerator. For our comfort, we want ashes and we want to take them to Colorado as soon as possible. Her wishes were that they be scattered near Trout Lake, twelve miles south of Telluride, where she was born.
We will all have more peace when "dust to dust, ashes to ashes" is accomplished.
Yesterday at 5:45 am I woke and could not help thinking about where her fragile body lies, how it looks, her mouth open for air, her eyes closed, her white hair scraggly even after our heroic permanent wave appointment.
I cried out, speaking to Mom instead of about her for the first time since she died: "Oh Mother, I wish your ashes were in Colorado."