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This last weekend we flew to Maine for the burial of my father’s ashes. Dad died on Valentine’s Day, 2007, and it was his wish to be buried in the memorial garden designed by my landscape architect sister D at the new church. The garden is now finished, thanks in large part to donations made in Dad’s memory to the church.

My dear A made the box to hold the ashes. He made it last year, a few months after Dad died. He has made many wonderful boxes and pieces of furniture, but this was the hardest thing he’s ever made. Because I’m the second oldest of a large family, I hardly ever spent time alone with my parents. But A went to several week-long or two-week-long woodworking classes in the town where they lived, and so stayed with Mom and Dad. I think he spent more time alone with them than I ever did. His relationship with them was a solid bond. He and Dad drank bourbon together in the evenings and much enjoyed each other’s companionship. His love for my father was evident in the box he made.

Six of the seven children trickled in over the weekend, with families. One brother (and his family) was missing and much missed, but his absence couldn’t be helped. It was an easy relaxed weekend, with only small amounts of crabbiness, and large amounts of food, blabbing, and love, especially for Mom.

The burial service was in the late afternoon on Memorial Day. It was just our family, the vicar of the church, and the bishop of Maine. (And of course, the funeral director.) It was a bit cool, but the rain held off. The service was short, and when it was done, D brought out a bottle holding forget-me-nots in water. She handed the flowers to my sisters and mother to toss into the grave. Then she poured water over all our hands and with wet hands, we each touched the box holding the ashes.

She and my brother lowered the box into the grave, and then we all took handfuls of earth and threw them in over the box. I put in an extra handful for my brother who couldn’t be there.

Then it was over. We all were teary, but the sorrow did not carry the sharpness we’d felt at the time of Dad’s death.

After a walk around the garden, we went back to Mom’s apartment for a feast. But first, everyone got a glass of bourbon (Old Crow, Dad’s choice, yuck) and toasted our father. “He was a good man,” one of my brothers said, and we all repeated it. Another brother said “To and with”, a toast Dad often used, and the rest of us chimed in.

Dad had wanted to have “He was a good man” on his gravestone, but the memorial garden only allows for small cobblestones. So his stone said:

Halsey DeWolf Howe
Priest
Jan. 21, 1921 – Feb. 14, 2007

We were all satisfied, and I think Dad would have been satisfied too.

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