Earlier this month, I read a book called Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral by Kris Radish. It's about a group of women who are compelled by a recently deceased friend to travel around the country (from Arizona to Key West to New York City to northern Minnesota to Seattle) scattering her ashes in various places that held deep personal significance for her. Along the way, the women get to know one another and come to terms with their friend's death and their other troubles. It was OK, but the dialogue was terribly stilted and it was written in third-person present tense, which always bugs me.
Anyway, reading the book made me think about my mom. At her request, her ashes were scattered over White Sand Lake in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin, where she spent many of her happiest summers as a child. But what if she'd asked us for a traveling funeral? Obviously White Sand Lake would remain on the list, but where else? She had fond memories of hanging out with her high school buddies outside the Steak 'n Shake in Normal, Illinois. I don't know if that particular location is still around, but if it is, that would be a good place to leave part of her. Another good candidate might be somewhere on the campus of Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois, where she earned her degree and met my dad. She loved Chicago, so we would have dropped part of her there, maybe at the Art Institute, or in front of the Americana Hotel, where she and my dad honeymooned. She was a faithful supporter of the Wheaton Municipal Band, as a listener and a board member, so we would have taken scattered some of her ashes in Memorial Park during one of the weekly concerts. And late in life she became quite the Civil War buff, so we would have found an appropriate Civil War battlefield at which we could leave some of her behind.
Of course, she would never have asked us for a traveling funeral. I mean, she didn't even want to tell us she was sick, lest we worry about her unnecessarily, so she certainly wouldn't have wanted us to go to the trouble of undertaking (no pun intended) a traveling funeral, even a geographically compact one like the one I suggested above. That's not to say she wouldn't have liked the idea. She just wouldn't have asked.
Nor would I, and that makes me wonder. Over the years, I've observed that I have quite a few things in common with my mom, among them a love of British humor, broad tastes in music, a need to have something to read close at hand at all times, and a blasé attitude about housecleaning, to name but a few. And maybe there's something else, something that had never really occurred to me before I started thinking about traveling funerals. Like her, my first instinct would be to hide the fact that I was sick. In my case, it's not really because I don't want people to worry about me; it's because, deep down, I'm afraid that, well, people won't worry about me. I recognize that it's an irrational fear, but it's a very real one nevertheless, and so deeply ingrained that when I do it, it's not even a conscious decision.
I wonder if that's one more thing I had in common with my mom. I wonder if she too had that same kind of fear, if her frustration with my behavior in that regard was because she recognized in me something she saw in herself. I have no way of knowing. But I sure wish I could ask her.
I miss you, mom.