Yesterday my son Dylan and I visited my mom at an old folks’ home where she lives in Southbury, Connecticut. I’d been told by a nice woman who works for the facility that my mom, who’s been grieving since the recent death of her daughter Laura, was somewhat upset by the presence of her ashes, which she had been keeping in her bedroom closet. So Dylan and I resolved that we would take the remains down to the family plot in a cemetery in Wilton, Connecticut, where our family lived from ’64 to ’94, and surreptitiously bury them ourselves.

Nancy Wells at Southbury Deli — Saturday, 5.10, 1:55 pm

It seemed like the right thing to do. My sister had spoken more than once about the comfort she felt knowing that her final resting place would be alongside our parents, and it’s no big deal to deposit ashes in a piece of turf that’s been bought and paid for.
So after our visit my mom gave us a plastic bag containing Laura’s ashes, and Dylan and I drove south to Wilton. On the way there Dylan composed a beautiful prayer-eulogy on my i-Phone notepad. We borrowed a shovel from a friend who lives in Wilton, and drove into Hillside Cemetery to try and find the unmarked plot. My mom had told us it was about 10 or 12 paces south of where an old friend, Herb Gross, was buried. We asked a kindly older man who serves on the cemetery committee with Wilton’s Congregational Church to help us find Gross’s gravestone. It took us the better part of an hour to do so.
After the man drove off we went to the trunk and got out the bag and the shovel. Inside the bag we found a silver crucifix (my sister had bought it in Italy during a trip we took together in ’03) and a sweater jacket that my sister had bought for $10 dollars. (The price tag was still on it.) But we found no ashes. I called my mom with the news. She said she didn’t know where the ashes are. She’d just moved from a large apartment into a smaller living space, and had perhaps lost them in the shuffle. “I don’t care about the ashes that much,” she said. “It’s the spirit of her that counts…how we’ll remember her.” Of course, I said. You’re right, mom.
We returned the shovel to the friend’s house and caught the 7:37 train from Norwalk back to the city. This morning I read this Thomas Freidman column about Mothers’ Day, and it gave me a little pang.