Thursday, July 14, 2011

When strawberries bloom

One of my favorite columns, published May 31, 2008
When we lose a loved one, we carry them with us in our memories and in our hearts. Sometimes they leave behind other reminders of themselves. It could be opening a closet and getting a whiff of their cologne, or finding an old letter or photograph tucked into in the back of a drawer, or a note written in a book.
My son and I spent Memorial Day weekend in Ironwood, Mich.
On Sunday, my son and I climbed the back hill of my grandparents’ farm with my cousin and his two children. We climbed to Castle Rock, a formation of rocks visible from the kitchen window of the farmhouse. My son and his second cousins represent the third generation of children to climb Castle Rock to enjoy the view. A small white pine tree grows near Castle Rock, and I began digging a hole under it.
When the hole was as deep as I could make it with a garden trowel, we brought out the ashes of Katie Dog and buried them. I planted daisies on top, and in July we may come back and build a cairn of lake rocks to mark the spot.
Earlier that day, we drove to the cemetery to tend the graves of family members with my grandmother, aunt and my grandmother’s sister. The first stop was to the grave of my great-grandparents, the parents of my grandmother and her sister. Great Grandpa Waino and Great Grandma Alma died in the 1960s. My grandmother talked about the last time she spoke with her mother.
“She told me ‘I’ll see you tomorrow, we’ll go picking strawberries,’” Grandma said.
Great Grandma Alma died later that night.
At our feet - blooming around the graves of my great-grandparents - were wild strawberries.

We buried my father's ashes near Katie Dog's resting place, and marked the spot with a mosaic garden tile.

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