Her grandchildren sent her to heaven in a painted box.


Thursday August 9, 2018

Dear Thomas,


This letter is a tribute to the late Bonnie Blake.


Bonnie and her family lived down the road from your house. Her daughter Tanya gave a party here at The Inn at Weathersfield this week to celebrate Bonnie’s life. Such a beautiful tradition.


What made it even more special was Tanya's children, Bonnie's granddaughter Hannah and her grandson Brady, painted the box that Bonnie’s ashes were placed in. The simple stained wooden box with its sky blue painted lid wasn't bigger than a stacked pair of shoes. Her name and a date was carved into the top. It was nothing fancy.


The end of life rituals are different now. In your day, bodies were dressed in their finest clothes and set in wood caskets that were buried in churchyards or village cemeteries. Today, most of the original gravestones mark each body although some are sunken from erosion and others list in one direction or another. Traditions have changed. Now, it's become more popular to choose cremation. In a recent Vermont study, over 68% chose cremation over burial.


I grew up in the 1960s, in California, where cemeteries were tucked away on hillsides, basically out of site, but overlooking the ocean. Grave markers, if not flat against the soil, were grand and in my opinion, somewhat garish. I was only 18-years old when my mother died. She wanted to be cremated and her ashes blown out at sea. My father, a Presbyterian minister, was against it, telling me, "I want a place to visit her." I clearly remember screaming, "You can go to the beach!"


My mother got her wish. Her ashes were scattered off the coast of Del Mar. Over 40 years later, I still feel her presence when I walk the beach where I built sand castles as a child, and later, sunbathed on bright beach towels. (Too hard to explain.)


I like how Tanya chose to teach her children about death. More importantly, I like how Bonnie was wrapped in love. Everyone should have a choice how they exit this world and everyone should go out in such style, don't you agree?


Until next time, your house’s faithful caretaker,

Marilee

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