What remains

Owen’s ashes are still at Michael’s. This was supposed to be temporary – a holding place until we could make arrangements for a scattering, or a burial or a place at the mausoleum. It felt like a big decision we weren’t ready to make yet, and decided to postpone it for a while.  So leafing through the sober catalogue, between selecting a child-sized coffin and discussing memorial service logistics, we chose the most appropriate urn we could.  Rejecting the ‘baby urns’ shaped like alphabet blocks or baby shoes (ugh), we went for an adult urn (Why are there no urns for 12 year olds?), with inlaid enamel butterflies in a vibrant blue. (Did you know?  Butterflies are deaf.)

At first Michael said he wasn’t quite ready to give it up yet. That he has enjoyed the comfort of ‘having Owen with him’. I would ask occasionally, and the answer was always, Not yet.

I asked again a month or so ago, thinking “It’s spring. It’s time.”

But as all things must and will do, his feelings have changed. His latest response to my request to talk about it was not Not Yet, but rather, No. It wasn’t, I’m not ready yet, maybe in the fall. It was just simply, No.

I’m not going to fight over my son’s ashes. Clearly they are providing some healing for Michael and I have nothing to prove that my idea is better than his. But if Michael were to willingly part with them, I would return them to the earth. Honour his remains with a marker of some kind, near a big tree or a bench, where I or Angus or friends or anyone who wished to could sit and enjoy the fresh air and ponder whatever comes to mind, which may include appreciating all that Owen was and all that Owen brought to his or her or my life.

Of course there’s nothing to stop us from doing that anyway, even with Owen’s remains 12 stories high, perched on a piece of furniture.



  1. There are pictures of my brother in various places in my house and at my parent’s house. They all seem to elicit emotional reactions from family and friends, providing healing, spirited discussions and memories as well as sighs and misty eyes. I guess we need physical touchstones, being physical creatures. After all, our loved ones are not inhabiting their physical bodies any more. They don’t care. We are, though, and we do care. 12 stories up, a park or over the falls (as my friend is about to do with her father’s remains), their spirit stays with us wherever we are.
    Thank you for sharing your heart Jen.

  2. Well, must say I’m having a bit of a “reaction” reading this one. Mother bear energy.

  3. Moving, eloquent and so well written Jennifer. As usual, thank you for sharing the very depths of you.
    With so much love,
    Katie xo

  4. Hi Jen — Thanks so much for sharing this. We had a similar experience when my Dad died. My uncle handmade a beautiful wooden box with my Dad’s name engraved on it for his ashes.

    We had planned to ‘inter’ the ashes (is that the word — when you have a ceremony and they’re buried in a cemetery). But then my Mom got used to having this box in her home and we decided we weren’t ready to bury it. At the time, I didn’t want to bury it because it seemed like such a “final” goodbye. About 6 months ago my mom brought up the idea again, but one of my brothers couldn’t be in the country so we let it wait again.

    I have a dream to take some of the ashes to Scotland, where my Dad’s family is from, up to a cemetery by a castle on a hill in Stirling, where other family members are buried, to scatter them.

    I love the conclusion you came to. And I thought the urn was/is exquisite and matched the brilliance of Owen. And I didn’t know that butterflies were deaf! xo

  5. Beautiful Jen.
    When I lost Shane, I decided that Mother’s day of 2009 was the day to spread his ashes (but I understand Micheal, when my husband passed I kept him close to me for over a year before I was able to let the ashes go).
    My favorite memory of spreading Shanes ashes was that my daughter, her husband and one of our gransons was with us. WE took some up the point behind the yard overlooking the Assiniboine valley, where I have a bench to sit and think on and an Inukshuk memorial of my husband, and we scattered some there. Then we did a few in our yard, close to home..and finally we went to a quiet place at another part of the farm we call our campground. It is a peaceful spot, alongside the Assiniboine (although withour Manitoba floods it’s not that peaceful today, but still), and there are dozens of giant bass trees. We had an old camper and a bbq down there, and would spend hours down there at family picnics, with Shane laying on a foam mattress, and us doing our thing as he took it all in. When the kids were with us, it was pretty typical for them to spend hours running up and down the hills behind the campground hooping and hollering and racing…with Shane’s eyes always lighting up to watch them, although he couldn’t participate. The day we scattered his ashes my daughter took the last of them and said “it’s time for Shane to see the view from the top”…and she and her husband and our grandson went running as fast as they could up through the trees…hooping and hollering and racing as they always had…Shane’s urn along with them…then we watched them release what was left at the top, and come racing back down….I was so proud of her for thinking to do that…and so glad that he finally got to see the view from the top….that thought has brought me so much peace through time….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *