“Making Spirits Rise”

Today I picked up my dad’s ashes—or “cremains” as they’re known to the bereavement industry—from the funeral home here on the Vineyard. The biodegradable cotton urn was packed in a small burgundy tote bag, suitable for small grocery runs, I expect.

I first placed the ashes on the floor behind the passenger seat, but as I began to drive with my “dad” in the back, I suddenly felt like a chauffeur. Too impersonal. Too formal for the humble man. I stopped the car (a red, 1999 Izuzu with”CLIFRD” plates and a tiny stuffed Clifford hanging from the rearview mirror) and swung the bag around to rest on the passenger seat beside me.

Patting the sack I proclaimed “let’s go, daddy-O,” and drove off, employing the term of endearment I used most frequently in these last few months with my dad.

I put dad’s ashes under the tree until his interment ceremony, a few days after Christmas.

Until then I make my daily trips to the Edgartown post office, bringing home stacks of cards. If they are addressed to my mother, they are condolences; if they have my dad’s name, they are Christmas cards; if addressed to the “Bridwell Family” there’s about a 70% chance it’s a condolence card.

Even without his ashes here, there would be no doubting his presence in the house. Our lovely Christmas spirit.


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