Thursday, January 22, 2015

It Lies Below The Land of the Remembered



For as long as I can remember, my mother has talked about her fear of being dead.

Not of dying, she looked forward to that. To seeing her mother again, her husband who had passed away when he was 39 years old, of being with her four gone before her brothers.

I must not be forgotten. If I am forgotten, my body is alone. I cannot bear to watch and know, that my body is alone.

I would sit on the edge of the bed, and listen to my mother's phrases of worry. She never asked any of us if we would visit her grave, she assumed she would be buried, and then forgotten. So sure was she of being left entombed and unattended, that her fears kept her roaming through the house at 3 a.m., consumed with the vision of a stark, physical afterlife.

I would hear the floor creak as she paced in the dining room. I would hear her in the kitchen, getting a glass of water, then half an hour later, another glass. Her mouth made dry by the anxiety of the future. Sundays were the worst, after church when the priest would talk of ashes to ashes, dust to dust. It was then, that I think she first came to think of cremation.

She was Catholic in the strongest definition of the word, she had grown up being told Catholics could not be cremated. But I remember the day that I was driving to my house, with her in the passenger seat beside me.

The priest say, I can be cremated. It is not a sin.

Oh? I didn't know it was a sin. Was it a sin?

We were told to only be buried. But, now he say yes, and I will do it.

She burrowed through her ever-present purse and found what she was looking for. A small business card with information, numbers, check amounts, and contact procedures. All of this, on thin white card stock of two by three inches.

This is what I want.

To be cremated.

The priest say, I can do it.

When my mother did pass away, she was cremated. I kept her card in my coat pocket during her burial, patting it every few minutes, making sure it was there, in case any family member questioned her request.

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There is a scene in the movie, The Book of Life, that jumps, sudden and swift, out of nowhere. It is in undeniable contrast to the rest of the film, and is of The Land of the Forgotten.

When I saw this scene for the first time, I gasped. I sat between my two children and said to them, “THIS is why my mother was so afraid of being buried! The Land of the Forgotten! Do you hear what they're saying about the Land of the Forgotten!?”

On screen, we see black against grey against another grey hue, barren and stripped, no color in sight, nor vibrancy of life. No visitors. And more haunting than the lack of others, is how quickly one can arrive in the Land of the Forgotten.

"One only has to be forgotten."

My mother's body was turned into ash, this is the insurance she needed to be sure that her bones were kept out of the Land of the Forgotten. But for me? Her fear has become my vigilance.

I say her name every day, I keep a candle in front of her framed picture. With my sentinels at the gate, she will never feel or hear the empty gusts that blow across the Land of the Forgotten.
 

4 comments:

  1. I'm surprised she didn't want her ashes to remain with you? Were her ashes placed with in a grave with someone else, or alone?

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  2. Hi, Ms A: For the Catholic church to acknowledge a burial as Catholic, the entire ashes must be placed below ground. She rests forever now, between her mother (my abuelita) and my father.

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  3. It is so interesting to me how people remember and carry the memories of those who have gone before, but think they will be forgotten. Your reflections fascinate and charm me as always.

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    Replies
    1. You are a gift to me. Thank you, Andrea.

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