Written July 6, 2015. Sharing today in memory of Nathan Joseph, 8/24/14-8/26/14.
Yesterday we buried Nate’s ashes. We divided them between two places, placing some just under the mulch around his tree at the arboretum and some in our garden against the back of the house. The spot in our garden is under a decorative stone my mom’s siblings gave us that reads, “Those we have held in our arms for a little while, we hold in our hearts forever.”
Joe and I had talked last fall about what we wanted to do with the ashes. I proposed placing them at the arboretum. But I think neither of us was in a big hurry to act, and then it got colder and Joe wanted to wait to place them until spring, after the ground had thawed. Last week we talked some more and decided it would be nice to have some of the ashes at Nate’s tree, in a spot we can always visit, and some with us, with our family, at home.
Yesterday I had the box with the ashes in my purse as we walked up the hill to Nate’s tree. I hadn’t seen the box itself until yesterday. I remember making the first call to the funeral home the morning after we got home from the hospital. The bereavement brochures we had received suggested that that task could be assigned to a friend or a relative, but I felt like it was something I wanted to handle as a parent.
Joe and I reached the tree and placed the ashes, swatting mosquitoes away from each other as we did so. We said a few words and walked back to the parking lot. We passed the children’s garden on our way out, and I cried.
At our house, after placing the remaining ashes, I poured into the ground the rest of the small bottle of water that had been used in Nate’s baptism.
Then I went back inside and took a shower—I was still sweaty and salty from the morning’s long run with a good friend—and left again to visit another good friend in town for the weekend and meet her beautiful baby girl.
If there were a single day encompassing the roller-coaster of emotions of the past 10 months, that was it.
I’m glad for what Joe and I did. As sad as it was to see the ashes for the first time, I had to tell myself that that was all they were—ashes. My faith tradition holds that Nate has a spirit that is not there and is not buried. And when I read “On the Night You Were Born” aloud in the nursery, or when I say “Thank you for running with Mommy today” as I did when I was pregnant, I’m doing so with a strong sense of that enduring spirit.
Faith sustains. Love sustains.
And I am reminded: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
• Christine LaFave Grace works as an editor and writer.
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