Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

Because of the severity of her accident and other issues involved, mom had to be cremated.

I promise this is not a blog where I post a picture of her remains.

But I did struggle with this idea of my mom being cremated, and it was hard for me, and I didn’t much like the idea of it – even though it was one mom herself had proposed from time to time.

The funeral fund has raised $1,100 of the $3,200 that it cost to do the cremation and death certificates. That’s a lot of money, and we are so grateful! We did not purchase anything else, not even an urn, so that really was the best we could do. But raising a third of the price was enough we could pick her up, so she has been resting in a gift bag in my room until we can take her to be buried between her parents. It is a family owned cemetery, so they are not going to charge us for a plot, and just let us dig our own hole between her parents and that is where we will lay her to rest and consecrate her grave. It is about a mile from Lambert’s, so mom-in-a-gift-bag will be thrilled.

Yesterday was especially hard for some reason, especially brutal. I really don’t know why. I barely made it through work, paperwork and treatment plans took four times as long as normal, and I often found myself in a daze, staring out into space. There were lots of tears, not even counting the meltdown April and I had at lunchtime.

But in the evening, I worked on Jeremiah blogs for February, realizing how grateful I was and what purpose there was in being ahead on them, because no way could I have written them last week or this week. But there they were, automatically being posted, keeping my promise to do what I was asked to do. I was relieved, but if I did not get back to writing, they would catch up to me so I needed to do some and knew the prophets would give me strength.

Chasing an insight, I landed in the middle of one of the Journal of the Discourses, reading an old talk by Brigham Young. He was talking about creation, and how it is simply a matter of organizing the elements, and how the Lord has both the capacity and power to create. He said that we are each made from the elements of the Earth, and that we are all made from the same elements, but the Lord knows how to organize them into the correct and needed things: gold, grass, cows, people, etc.

About that time, I had to go open mom’s gift bag for the first time. I had only very carefully put her on her jewelry chest, and not touched it since. I often looked at it and cried, but had not looked in it. We needed, though, to get the numbers off the tags, and I needed to do it before all six children were there watching.

So I opened her gift bag for the first time.

I thought it would be scary and sad, and although it was a not sacred moment, it was not scary.

Inside the bag was a plastic box, heavier than I expected, and inside the box was a heavy duty clear plastic bag with the remains inside and the medical examiner tags on top.

I have never seen ashes of someone before, so expected them to look like ashes of dust.

They were ash color, but it was more like sand, full of tiny little rocks.

It looked like something beautiful out of my garden.

I did not open the sack – it was not time for that – and carefully put then sack back in the box, and the box back in the gift bag, and the gift bag back on her jewelry chest.

It was a sacred moment, that somehow was not as scary or sad as I had thought it would be.

After this, it was time for Nathan and I to do our couple study while we waited for my brother and his wife to get here. Never have I been so anxious about them being on the road! Never have I so needed them to get here safely and been so anxious about it! So when we finished our hymn, we knelt to pray.

We told Heavenly Father about our very hard day. We told Him about all our feelings, the whole swirl of them, and how heavy the burden felt today, that it seemed particularly hard, and that we needed help. But then we also told him all the things about His good plan of happiness that we know to be true, even that mom’s spirit is still alive, and even what I had just learned about Him having the capacity and power and knowledge to re-organize the elements into people, even being able to use those sandy ashes to create a new and improved mom someday.

And we thanked Him for this, which is sometimes the most important thing to do.

Then Nathan and I began our study. We have made it all the way to Mosiah chapter two, and began in verses 24, 25, and 26.

24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?

25 And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you.

26 And I, even I, whom ye call your king, am no better than ye yourselves are; for I am also of the dust. And ye behold that I am old, and am about to yield up this mortal frame to its mother earth.

And I realized suddenly that this was talking about the same thing that I had studied in that Brigham Young talk, that we are each of us made from the elements of the earth. Our bodies are on loan from Him, for the elements do belong to Him, and it is only by Him lending us breath – our spirits being placed in our mortal bodies – that we do live. It is by His grace, His will, and His love that we do live. It is for His purpose that we do live.

(Another reason it is so important to live as He has asked, because it is indeed for His purpose.)

But when that purpose is fulfilled – which mom’s life does feel so complete and whole and good, for we ended well, she ended well – then He does withdraw our spirits from our mortal frame, which returns itself to the elements of the dust of the earth, like something beautiful from my garden.

As this knowledge poured into my mind, I felt a voice more than a whisper, almost laughing, but in a tender way not a shaming or mocking way, I felt Him say not to worry about it. Don’t worry about mom and her ashes and her mortal body awaiting its resurrection.

It’s a piece of cake. It’s easy. It’s nothing.

It’s everything.

My God, whom I believe created the entire universe of planets by using organized principles and laws to organize material into worlds and everything on them, will not find it difficult to organize the elements of my mother’s mortal body into a resurrected being and fill it with her spirit once more.

I felt, suddenly, that mom-in-her-spirit is learning as we learn, and on her own, and that she is happy of it, and at peace, and that the strength and power in Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness both teaches and pleases her.

And I realized, just like that, that while I had been taught it my whole entire life, I do indeed have a testimony of the resurrection!

And that these remains of mom belong to Him, and that He is easily able to create a new and improved body to house her spirit when it’s time.

And I felt His love for me, and her love for me, and Nathan’s love for me, and such a deep peace!

When we finished with our closing prayer, we did thank Him so much for this revelation and testimony I received at the end of that hard day!

Just as we finished, we got a text message that Kirk and Carolyn had safely made it to Claremore and were almost home to us, and Nathan got a message about one of his shows being produced, and at the same time I felt this flutter in my belly, and it was like there was LIFE everywhere, all in us and around us, and it was amazing!!

I was happy, even though I was sad, and filled with deep peace.

I know the hard days are not finished, and that mom’s death will still sting while I grieve her physical absence. Even today, we have to meet with highway patrol, and the last of mom’s things will be loaded onto the uhaul tonight, and it will be so hard and sad.

But I received a testimony of the resurrection, and of her live spiritual presence, and of my Father’s good plan for me.

And for that, I am grateful.

Almost as grateful as mom will be to resurrect so close to Lambert’s.

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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