Ashes to Ashes…Dust to Calif.

I picked up my mother’s cremated remains at the funeral home yesterday.  Technically, they’re called “cremains” by the funeral home folks.  An odd sounding word, at least to me.  A euphemistic way of stating the facts.

You’re not exactly saying “cremated,” but you’re not saying “remains” either.

It’s like, if we combine the two by saying them reallyfast, we can fool ourselves into thinking what we have in that little cardboard box is neither one.

The funeral home director brought the box out from another room and placed it on the table in front of me.  The gold ring my mother was wearing when she died was taped to the top of the box.  The director wanted me to be aware of that. When we spoke over the phone earlier, he’d made a point of telling me that they’d retrieved it from her when she arrived.

I guess they want to avoid any possible accusations by the family of their not returning valuables.  We do live in a litigious age, so you can’t fault them for that.

The director and his assistant, an older gentleman, were both very nice and accommodating.  Since my mother had pre-paid for her cremation with The Neptune Society, all I owed was $37 for the copies of her death certificate.

When you hear all the horrific tales about people spending huge sums of money on funeral arrangements, it feels a little weird writing a check for only $37.  No bronze casket with satin lining, gold handles or a waterproof concrete vault.

Just a cardboard box with her name on it and a gold ring taped to the top.

Since my mother wanted to be returned to California, we shipped her off to my son today.  He, along with his two cousins (all surfers or paddleboarders), will oversee the scattering of her ashes in the ocean off the beach at the end of the street where she lived with my Dad for 25 years.

Who needs bronze caskets, satin linings and all the rest of it when you’ve got the whole Pacific Ocean?

Have a good trip home, Mom.





37 thoughts on “Ashes to Ashes…Dust to Calif.

    • Thank you, Carolyn. It’s funny, but that’s one of my favorite pictures of my mother. We were at an exotic animal park with the grandkids, riding in an open tram kind of thing towed by a tractor. We had buckets of feed to give the bison and the camel when the tractor stopped. My mother didn’t even flinch when Omar stuck his head in for his share. There’s another pic with Omar standing right behind her where she’s smiling, unaware he’s looming over her.


  1. i’ve also found it to be a weird word… i suppose the “c” up front makes it just a little less freaky. maybe.

    what a beautiful place for her to be – and for your son and his cousins for handling things. and a kindness done by your mother to have pre-arranged things. sending you a hug tonight….


  2. So, Sweetheart, safe travels for you. I’m looking at my own future and can only tell you that you have tended to your Mom so well. That you have arranged for her ashes to be carried out to sea by family member surf borders, at the end of the street where she lived. Well, how cool is that? We should all have that last loved energy of live lived the way we wanted it to be. I am very sorry for your loss and do hope that you find some sense of calm and peace with her passing. Love, from here.


  3. I was a little surprised to see how small the box was and that it was little more than a shell to protect the plastic bag inside. In the end, we aren’t very much at all.


  4. I want my family to go to Cape Cod and throw me into the sea! One last ride on a wave!
    My mother wanted a traditional funeral. We chose the least expensive wooden casket that they had. We had several people tell us what a beautiful casket it was!
    And very annoyed that it was closed. What is it with these people?

    I hope you are doing well. It is so hard to accept the death of one’s mother. All my women role models are dead now. It made me take stock and make sure that I remember the love and wisdom that they all contributed to my own life and to pass it on to the next generation.


    • We had the opposite experience with my mother’s father. My mother had asked that the casket be closed, but it was open. It was okay, but not what she’d requested. We went to one funeral where they had the body kind of propped up in the casket, I guess so it could be seen by the people sitting down. Now, that was creepy.


  5. That picture of the Pacific is a nice image to hold onto, peaceful and lovely. I think it was great that your mom had things all planned.

    My husband would like to be scattered in the Atlantic. I’d rather be scattered in a garden somewhere. In fact, they can clean house and toss the dogs’ ashes out with me. (Preferably not in a dog park.) No funerals–just our family getting together.

    Must say. . . that headline is one of your cleverest yet and you’ve had some real dillies!


    • My husband has said he wants to be mulched around the roses. The wife of one of our friends (jokingly) told us that when her husband died she was going to have him cremated so she could put him in her douche bag and run him through one more time. ha


  6. So sorry to hear of your mom’s death. But it sounds as though you are getting things done… is often hard to take on these things when there are so many emotions and memories attached. My dad was a huge man, we wondered how many ashes there would be when he was cremated. We buried his ashes with his wife’s ashes. It is sort of nice to have him in a certain spot where we can visit. We did the same thing with my sister’s ashes, although she is with our grandparents. I certainly prefer cremation, but haven’t decided about what to do with the remains. My one demand is that there not be any reviewal….I would hate to have people looking at me in a casket, saying that I look so good….
    Take care, hon.


    • Yes, going through the rigamarole of a viewing seems to be defeating the purpose, doesn’t it? Having a spot to visit is nice, but I think they can be with us where ever we are just by thinking of them. Thanks, chlost.


  7. I have always appreciated your clear-eyed practical outlook on your mom’s life and now, your clear-eyed practical outlook on her death. It’s touching that you took such good care of her through the end and beyond. Sorry to get a bit Buzz Lightyear on you.


  8. Blessings to you, and your mother.

    The cremators don’t cremate metal with the body. It was sad to remove my mother’s rings before she passed but she didn’t know it; her hands were swelling.

    In Alaska, they gave me a very nice black enamel box for Mom; in Washington, I had to buy Dad’s wooden box; they had bought their cremation in advance in WA but mom’s was less expensive here than Dad’s; the death certificate in Alaska is prettier, too, with a gilded stamp. So much for all that.

    Most of mom was interred in WA but I did take a small vial up the Parks Highway and scattered some at the Denali viewpoint. It was a beautiful, gorgeous sunny snowy day, overlooking the river with the mountain in it’s full glory. I tipped the container and a burst of wind blew the entire contents out. I’m thinking she liked the spot. I’m thinking your mother likes the idea of the entire Pacific ocean, as well.


    • While we were waiting for the hospital chaplain to come after my mother died, my daughter whispered to me that maybe we should take her ring with us. I reached under the blanket and tried to remove it, but it wouldn’t budge. I felt weird doing that (like the woman in George C. Scott’s “A Christmas Carol” who took the bedcurtains off of Scrooge’s bed after he died while he was still in it), so I said “I think maybe she wants to keep it.” The funeral home phoned me later that evening to say they had her ring for us. I don’t want to know how they got it off.


  9. I had a really great experience with the Cremation Society in our state; everything went exactly as they said it would, and pre-paying meant that there were no ugly financial surprises. I’m glad your experience was similarly satisfying.


  10. You area one blogger that I wish I had found long ago. All of what you write about is up my alley. I’m surrounded by cats and GOP-ers as well. Dang reps. they’re all el nuts so. You sort of remind of me of Margaret and Helen. And, I thought Molly I. was so right on, about everything she wrote. I’ll be back to read more when I have explore your blog. I found you via your name on Magsx2 or whatever the name is. I saw Texas Trailer Trash and thought, “humnnn, I think that sounds like a winner.” I also live in Central Texas since the beginning of my “old life.”


  11. I won’t tell the whole story, but I once unexpectedly revieved the cremains (hate that word, hate the mindset that creates words like that) of a close family friend through the mail. A mailman simply handed me a box and I had no clue what it was until I began to unpack it. Then I had no idea what to do with it.


    • I’m doing very well, mgardener, thanks for asking! Got pretty much all of my mother’s affairs straightened away. I just realized it’s been a month since she died. Kind of hard to wrap my head around that one. Gradually getting to where I don’t think about having to go to the nursing home to check on her. Her ex-boss from the dress shop where she worked years ago sent me a check for $100 and we donated it to our local SPCA where we got our little dog last summer. That was a nice (and unexpected) gesture on her part.


  12. Hey Sweetie, been thinking about you. It’s not easy these weeks after and clearing out and with living those last spaces and what to keep and what to let go. It’s great that you have found some support and gifts from people that love you and support you in your loss. For me, you have been a role model of care giving, and sharing in those many days of love and loss.


    • Thanks so much, LB, for your kind comments. I don’t know about being a role model, though. I think you just do what you have to do, when you have to do it, and hope that it was the right thing. Definitely some second-guessing bouncing around my thoughts still, but I try to tune them out as much as I can.


  13. NIce goodbye to your mom. Sentimental in a different sort of way. Not weepy – not particularly warm and fuzzy, but I caught the love. 🙂 Hope she’s enjoying the ocean breeze.


    • Thanks, Rachel. You’re right—it’s neither weepy nor warm and fuzzy. Pretty much mirrors our relationship the last thirteen years since we moved her here to Texas.

      If you’d enjoy a little light reading, check out my other “Notes from the Eldercare Underground” posts. You can find them by clicking on the tag “mothers.”

      Thanks for stopping by—y’all come back.


  14. I’m sorry about your loss. I see it was several months ago, but having lost my own mom several years ago, I know there isn’t a statute of limitations on grief. Like you, I went the cremation route. My mom’s wish was that it was simple, inexpensive and dignified.


    • Thanks so much, Smaktakula. Her ashes are still awaiting dispersal, although we are going out to California in June. As for me, I’d like someone to sneak a little of mine into Disneyland and sprinkle them around near the Haunted Mansion or on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Thanks for stopping by and for the comment!


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