A funeral home near St. Paul, MN, just east, in a small town over the Wisconsin border. My friend, cremated, his remains in a two-toned wooden box, something that just as well could hold jewelry or collected stamps. One of his sons–there are four children, the boys are in the middle, ages six and four–stops playing for a bit with the other children at the wake and goes to his mother, now widowed, and asks a question he’s asked before in the previous couple days since his father’s death.
“He’s in that box.”
“Even his eyes??” he says.
I don’t know how to parse all of this, how to reconcile it. The shock, the disbelief, the slow, pieced acceptance. So much summed up with a simple, honest question. If you think about what he asked, spend some time with it…
You realize yes, even his eyes. Everything. Not just parts. All of it. It’s all in there–but more, not here, with us.
Except for memories. Stories. I don’t know how children can register something like this–they, so young, their father, so young.
You go on and you remember someone. You remember them well. You remember them well for yourself, for others, for who’s left. You build memories where they didn’t get to be made, which is what a mother still here must do.
You have to be an artist.
I just can’t imagine.