Recently, my mother visited the farm, and we agreed we would spread my father’s ashes. We hoped to talk about him and share what we remembered and maybe even share some stories about times we spent with my dad (her first husband).
Clarence Denman Jones or C.D., as we called him, died when I was a sophomore in college. The circumstances around his death were gray. He died – possibly of heart failure —in a hotel in Florida, and his body was not discovered until the next day by the maid.
After my dad was cremated, the urn was mailed to me at mother’s home on Garret Street in Vienna, Virginia, and she gave me the box when I visited during school break.
Fast forward thirty five years, many moves for me from Maryland, to New Orleans, Oregon, Alaska, and back to Oregon. Two husbands. Several more dogs and cats, a parrot, two donkeys, and many pigeons. The box accompanied me everywhere and through all the various phases of my life. I never opened the box or spread the ashes, because I never found the right place or the suitable time.
C. D. and I took a trip before he died to Graves Mountain Lodge in the Shenandoah Mountains Virginia. We enjoyed sitting in the rocking chairs on the lodge’s long porch, and we hiked each day in the Virginia woods. One of our hikes took us up so high, and we sat on a ledge overlooking a valley. C.D. loved this view; the lodge, the relaxing, and the time spent together. I always remembered that place, and so one day I realized it was time to spread my father’s ashes on my own farm— way up high, and it was only right to do this with my mother by my side. So we planned to drive with the four-wheeler up to one of the the highest places on the farm overlooking the wide prairie valley.
We did this, and we told stories, and laughed, and thought back on ole nine-fingered Cash Deposit (as he was affectionally called). And, then I slit the weathered tape on the box and took out a round copper urn- that looked a lot like a can of paint. I pried open the lid with the sharp end of a hay hook. Inside we saw ground up bones and gravel.
The plan was I would drop out half the can, and mother would let go the remaining ashes.
I saw a small envelop accompanying the urn, so I opened it and read: I hereby certify that this urn contains the ashes of Ethel E. Frederickson. Died October 3, 1982. I said, “My God, you’re not going to believe this.”
“ I can’t believe it – these are not C.D.’s ashes. I’ve been carrying this box around for thirty-five years, and it’s Ethel, not C.D.”
We were startled, and I felt a temporary swelling of keen disappointment. Had I been cheated? Of course it was funny too. And we wondered who got C.D. those many years ago, and mom comforted herself by hoping it really was C.D.’s ashes, and the information inside the envelope was incorrect.
But, In the end, we did a beautiful job of blowing Ethel’s ashes across the yellow-dry grasses during early autumn at Mule Springs Farm.
We thought about C.D., and we wondered about Ethel, who she was, what life she lived, and who her people were. C.D. and Ethel were both released that day, and now that a week has passed; it all seems okay; I’m glad we held the ceremony and we spoke about my dad and mom and I had some time to reflect what he meant to us in our lives.
And if Ethel was really there too – she was welcome.