Here's a fun topic. After 8 years of my husband's passing, his brother asked to have his ashes back! Whaaaat?!?!?
For history sake, and for the sake of this story, my husband's family consisted of an older sister, an older brother, and an adult daughter.
Two months into my husband's journey with cancer he lost his ability to speak and communicate, therefore all decisions were basically up to me. I learned quickly, when 1 person attends a doctors’ visit, they are limited as to what they actually hear, and absorb, because they are emotionally charged. I wanted to be sure I was hearing, and understanding, as much as possible, therefore would often times take my husband's sister, or daughter, with us, to doctor visits. It was interesting to me how we could walk out of the doctors office, and each of us "heard" something different. It was very important to me that his family be a part of the decision making, and plan of care, even though, ultimately, it was up to me.
When my husband passed away, I had him cremated. I made sure his brother, sister, and daughter, all received some ashes of their own, to do with as they wished. I knew they all remembered him for different things, and may each want to spread his ashes in a way that was special to each of them. I kept the rest for myself, to do with, as I wished. Everybody seemed grateful and I really felt like I did the right thing. Additionally, his daughter and I were gifted a trip to Mexico where we spread some of the ashes, together.
Over the years, since my husband's passing, my relationships with his sister and brother, have diminished. In fact, my relationship with his sister ended right after his death. She and I had talked about taking my portion of the ashes to a special tropical island where we had all visited once before, to spread his ashes there. We talked about it, but in the end, I decided to take someone else, and she has never talked to me since. I have texted/called his brother, over the years, without any replies. And though the relationship is not what it used to be, his daughter and I still check in with each other, and gather for special occasions.
So lets get to these ashes... a few days ago was my husbands’ birthday. Suddenly, at 8pm I get a text from his brother. I was excited to hear from him, because I have no bad feelings, and he will always be like family to me. But when I read the text, I was a little hurt. It went something like this.
Brother: “Today is Scott’s birthday. What did you ever do with his ashes? Can we have them?”
Me: "I know it’s his birthday. I gave you all your own ashes to do with as you wish, and I kept the rest for me, to do with as I wish."
Brother: “Oh good. I just didn’t want him sitting around being forgotten. I have some I carry with me.”
Me: "He will never be forgotten, on my end. My memories of him are carried with me, in my heart, everywhere I go, not in a box of ashes. And, tomorrow would have been our 19 year wedding anniversary."
Brother: "Thats good"
Wow! Talk about side swiped! And who is "we?" His brother is not married so I'm guessing he meant him and his sister.
So this automatically puts me in a tailspin, and suddenly I'm hammered with all kinds of self questioning like, “Does his family think I am not worthy to keep his ashes? Don't they think, even if I had the ashes, I would take good care of them? Have I done my husband a disservice? Maybe I shouldn’t have spread them the way I wanted? What do they seriously think of me, they must think I’m some kind of monster? Do they think they’re more deserving or would take better care of the ashes?” The list of self doubt goes on and on! My feelings were so hurt. And I was pissed!
But then I stopped, and I was suddenly filled with peace. I was reminded of how WE ALL GRIEVE. It doesn’t matter what our relationship was with the person, whether we are spouses, siblings, parents, children, uncles, cousins, brothers, co-workers, neighbors or friends; we all grieve. And, we all grieve differently. And we grieve because we loved that person. And, our grief lasts for an undetermined amount of time and it looks different for all of us.
I do not know why his brother suddenly wanted the ashes back or felt like he needed to imply that I had forgotten about my husband. But what I do know, is this was his brother grieving, and, unfortunately, it felt like he was taking it out on me. Maybe he did it because he also knew I loved his brother, and there was that comfort or familiarity, or maybe it's because he was angry at me for moving on with my life. I will never know. But I do know he grieves, just as I do.
I have learned much about grief, through my own personal journey, and from working at hospice. And, in my opinion, the grief will never go away, but will change faces over time. I am comfortable with the grief now, and comfortable knowing it is part of my life. Most of my days are great, but the grief will certainly come up like a sneaker wave, and get me when I least expect it. But now I'm able to recognize it, and accept it, and work through it. And, again, if I had never loved that person, I would not be grieving him, therefore I will take the grief. My gratitude for the time we shared together is way more powerful than the grief that visits me on occasion.
"And now I'm glad I didn't know the way it all would end, the way it all would go. Our lives are better left to chance; I could have missed the pain, but I'd have had to miss the dance." - Garth Brooks