Monday, June 30, 2008

View from Above

Flying back from Indianapolis to California today, the plane passed over the Rocky Mountains in southern Colorado.

I wanted to look down and see Telluride, Trout Lake, Mesa Verde, but a haze covered the area, and shadow too. The sun must have set down there.

"My mother's ashes are down there," I thought. "I'm flying over the spot where they lie, under the lilac bush."

Last week my brother Bill reported that the red columbines I also planted under the lilac had died. I'm sad that they died... I wanted that spot to look so beautiful, to contain her cherished flowers.

"I wonder if she cares," I then mused, looking down from the airplane window.

And staring out at the billows of cumulus clouds illumined by the setting sun, I realized, "No, she doesn't care. She is so far beyond caring about that little spot on earth where her ashes lie. It's only Bill and I who are tending that spot, wanting the lilac to survive its first cold winter at 10,000 feet, wanting the shooting star columbines to bloom there."

She is so far beyond, but we still care.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Love Is a Pink Bear

Before driving to Colorado with Mom's ashes, I sorted through her remaining possessions, looking for things to take to Trout Lake to keep in her cabin there as a kind of memorial to her:
~the antique doll buggy given to her when she was four years old,
~her diary of 1936-38,
~photos of her with her brother Reynold Gustafson and her cousin Walter Pera,
~her framed poem "Work,"
~the photo collage I made for the door of her room at the assisted living.

I also came across things that needed to be given to the Salvation Army but had so far escaped that fate.

Then I saw the pink plush bear that sits on a shelf and sings:

L is for the way you look at me.
O is for the only one I see.
V is very very extraordinary.
E is even more than anyone that you adore.

And love is all that I can give to you.
Love is more than just a game or two.
Two in love can make it;
Take my heart and please don't break it!
Love was made for me and you.

I found this bear in the Mission Hospital gift shop when Mom was having surgery for her second broken hip in August, 2004. It has two strings of pearls and a white plush wide-rimmed hat with a pink silk ribbon tied in a rosette. Another ribbon comes from the back to tie in front at the waist in an elegant, floppy bow.

Its head bobs left and right, the mouth opening and closing as it sings, sitting upright on a solid oval base though the arms and legs are soft, a shiny pale pink velveteen with stuffing.

I had squeezed its paw and played it for her many times in 2004 and later, always bringing a smile to her face. Sometimes she tilted her head left and right in rhythm with the music, as if dancing to it though sitting upright in her bed.

Yes, I decided, the bear has to go to Colorado. It rode in the car with me across the desert and up into the mountains, representing my mother's taste in dress in her later years with its hat and bows and pearls and plush pink.

While I was cleaning my house at Trout Lake, however, I noticed things that needed to be given away and decided that the pink bear was one of them. Surely it should be given to some poor child who would enjoy it.

In Telluride there's a collection of shelves and bins called the Free Box; people leave items, and others who have needs come by and sort through them, taking anything valuable. I drove there.

Dropping off my bags, I placed the bear on a shelf in full view, hoping someone would take it home to a child, hesitating to leave the bear but finally driving off to return to Trout Lake.

Leaving town, however, I thought of the bear sitting there and wanted to go back and get it.

I pulled over and yelled at myself: "You're crazy, Anne. Why do you want that bear? It should go to a poor child. You can't keep everything."

"But it reminds me of her," I answered myself. "It means more to me than it would to some child who would get it."

Feeling completely foolish, I turned around and drove back to the Free Box, walked up to the bear, and picked it up in full sight of a couple of Mexican-American men lounging there.

As I again drove out of town, I squeezed the pink bear's paw so it sat in the front seat singing, "L is for the way you look at me...."

Back in her cabin, I put it on the bureau in the bedroom, but a few days later, thinking of the dust and mice that would attack it over the winter, I took the bear to my car and drove it back to California, where it sits in my house near Mom's glass cabinet holding her doll collection.

I need to give away more of the dolls and sort through her many papers and photos--but the pink bear is here to stay.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Surrounded by Beauty

Here are the mountains around Trout Lake, where Evelyn's ashes rest in peace.

For the story of her life, order Adventures of a Telluride Native from Western Reflections Publishing at or from Amazon.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Return to the Earth

Today we placed Mom's ashes in the soil under the small lilac bush that I transplanted near her cabin yesterday.

The service was just before sunset, after Jim and his boys had been fishing in the lake.

I read from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, The Burial of the Dead, Rite One, including the Commendation and the Committal.

"O God, whose mercies cannot be numbered: Accept our prayers on behalf of thy servant Evelyn, and grant her an entrance into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of thy saints; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen."

Tom read parts of Psalm 90:

Lord, thou hast been our refuge, from one generation to another.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever the earth and the world were made,
Thou art God from everlasting, world without end....
For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past,
and as a watch in the night....
The days of our age are threescore years and ten;
and though men be so strong that they come to fourscore years,
yet is their strength then but labor and sorrow, s
o soon it passeth away, and we are gone.
So teach us to number our days,
that we may get a heart of wisdom.

I read:
"Grant that all who have been baptized into Christ's death and resurrection may die to sin and rise to newness of life, and that through the grave and gate of death, we may pass with him to our joyful resurrection....

Grant to us who are still in our pilgrimage, and who walk as yet by faith, that thy Holy Spirit may lead us in holiness and righteousness all our days. Amen....

Grant us grace to entrust Evelyn to thy never-failing love; receive her into the arms of thy mercy, and remember her according to the favor which thou bearest unto thy people. Amen."

In the commendation portion of the service, I read these beautiful words:

"Give rest, O Christ, to thy sevant with thy saints,
where sorrow and pain are no more,
neither sighing, but life everlasting.

Thou only art immortal, the creator and maker of humankind; and we are mortal, formed of the earth, and unto earth shall we return. For so thou didst ordain when thou createdst me, saying, 'Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.' All we go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia....

Into thy hands, O merciful Savior, we commend thy servant Evelyn. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech thee, a sheep of thine own fold, a lamb of thine own flock, a sinner of thine own redeeming. Receive her into the arms of thy mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.

Glancing often up to the last sunlight on the majestic peaks, I read the Committal:

"All that the Creator giveth me shall come to me;
and the one that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
The God who raised up Jesus from the dead
will also give life to our mortal bodies,
by God's spirit that dwelleth in us.

Wherefore my heart is glad, and my spirit rejoiceth;
my flesh also shall rest in hope.

Thou shalt show me the path of life;
in thy presence is the fulness of joy,
and at thy right hand there is pleasure forever more."

Then I opened the plastic bag with her ashes, about five pounds in weight, poured them into the ground under the branches of the lilac bush, and asked Tom and Greg to help me scoop earth lying nearby (from planting the bush yesterday) and place it over her ashes. We did that and then covered the fresh earth with sections of sod that had been growing there.

I read from the Commital:

"In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, we commend to Almighty god our mother and grandmother Evelyn; and we commit her body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The Lord bless her and keep her, the Lord make his [sic] face to shine upon her and be gracious to her, the Lord lift up his [sic] countenance upon her and give her peace. Amen."

The Lord be with you.
And with thy spirit.
Let us pray... [the prayer Jesus taught us]...

Rest eternal grant to her, O Lord:
And let light perpetual shine upon her.

May her soul, and the souls of all the departed,
through the mercy of god, rest in peace. Amen.

The God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant: Make you perfect in every good work to to God's will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight; through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

O God, whose blessed Son wa laid in a sepulcher in the garden: Bless, we pray, this grave, and grant that she whose ashes are buried here may dwell with Christ in paradise, and may come to thy heavenly kingdom; through thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

For me, reading these beautiful words and putting Mom's ashes to rest in a place of such beauty, was a joyous experience, filled with awe and a sense of God's presence.

Jim was sad and a bit choked up, said he did not want to see her ashes.

"You don't have to look," I told him. "This is a very beautiful and happy time for me, but you have a right to have your own feelings about it, to be sad."

Tom and Greg, ages 18 and 14, were quiet; I wasn't sure what they were feeling.

At any rate, we left her ashes there, near the ashes of her father, which were placed next to a one-foot tree on a knoll behind the cabin in 1976, and the ashes of her mother, placed there in 1984.

We left behind her ashes, guarded by the little lilac bush with the three red columbine plants blooming next to it.

Jim and Greg cleaned the ten fish they had caught in the afternoon, while Tom and I drove over to my house to fix dinner.

I am confident that she rests in peace, back in Colorado at last, forever.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Returning to Colorado

My mother's greatest wish was to return to Colorado. She missed Boulder, the Flatirons, Telluride, Trout Lake, her homes there and all the beautiful mountains.

Today I am driving her to Colorado--that is, I am driving her ashes.

The Telluride native, after all her adventures, is returning to Colorado.

I feel her presence with me in the car. Her ashes are glad to be done with sitting on my mantelpiece in California, glad to be speeding across the Mohave to Needles, Kingman, and Flagstaff, glad to be cross the Navajo Nation and reaching the Four Corners, then crossing the San Juan River into Colorado, driving through Cortez up the Dolores River valley to Trout Lake.

I couldn't take her here in the summers of 2005, 6, and 7, but she is going now. Last summer when I drove to Colorado, she said, "Is there any good reason why you can't take me with you?"

I mentioned one or two reasons, but there were many: her incontinence, her wheelchair-bound status, her weakness (unable to drive in a car for eight hours per day), her need for an oxygen-supply tank once we arrived, my lack of strength to transfer her into wheelchairs every time we left the car and then put her back in the car, the vigilance she would need at night, my lack of patience for dealing with all this.

At any rate, today I am driving her and some of her most treasured possessions to Trout Lake. I will leave her diary of 1936-38 and various photos in her cabin there. I will lead a service of deposition of remains with my brother Jim and his sons present as we lay her ashes to rest where she wanted them to be, near her cabin at Trout Lake.