Plain Brown Wrapper

It isn’t several years ago, but many now, that I took a writing class in which the in-class assignment was to write about this subject:

“I will die in Paris on a rainy day.  It will be Thursday.”

Part of what I wrote went like this:

“If I ever get to Paris I’m not sure I’d want to die there – or even on a rainy day.  They are so bleak.  Every time I went to see Mom before she died, it rained.  Every time I went to clean out her lifetime accumulation of things, it rained.  But on the day she was “planted” in the earth it was sunny!”

My mother died three weeks after entering the hospital with metastasized  lung cancer, and possible tuberculosis.  She wanted to be cremated, and her ashes scattered behind the house she and my father built.  My father, who was divorced from my mother, had cemetery plots that they had purchased together when they were married, and the plots became my father’s through the divorce property settlement.  He insisted (although I didn’t feel he had a right to insist) that one of the plots be allocated for my mother’s burial.  He and one of my sisters made life miserable for my other sister and me to make the case for scattering our mother’s ashes, as she had wanted.

We eventually agreed to have a small gathering of family and close family friends at the cemetery, where the ground could be blessed and a minister could conduct a simple service.  In my mind, the ground was already sacred and didn’t need blessing.

The day came for the service and burial.  A pedestal was delivered and set in place to hold our mother’s remains.  We had not purchased a special vessel for this purpose. I will be forever joyful that the form that was presented was a plain brown cardboard box, about one cubic foot in size.  On the side of the box were stamped the black letters that spelled the words “Temporary Container”.

Through the generations we’ve been taught the “appropriate” ways of such things as weddings and funerals, all the things that just “must ” be done.  And for me, in the end, the message was clear about my mother’s passing.  My mother was gone – and all that remained of her body was in a plain brown wrapper.  Her beauty was not there, but in our hearts.

And I feel that the message is also that we cannot be contained…we must go forward, with new thoughts about what is appropriate for our lives – outside the box!


For ff –




3 thoughts on “Plain Brown Wrapper”

  1. Beautiful and perfectly timed! We’re leaving the Black Hills tomorrow and I spent some time this afternoon updating a piece I wrote for the children/grandchildren – my spiritual journey. As you might expect, it tracks my time spent wriggling out of and staying out of the box!

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