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I did not journal for several days after my sister’s death but there are several stories I would like to share about those days. They have all blurred together. I’m not sure in what order things happened, just that they happened. There were many little things which had to be tended to after the fact. This was something that I knew about from observing what happened when my grandparents died and also from helping my husband’s grandmother when his grandfather died. It’s the little details that get to you. Canceling credit cards and magazine subscriptions; notifying social security; taking care of bank account, etc. It is time consuming and difficult, mostly because you have to keep saying those words over and over again . . . “I am calling on behalf of . . . . . who passed away on . . . .” It makes everything very real. It no longer is a dream or a nightmare.

One of the details that had to be attended to was going to the funeral home so Kelly could sign cremation papers but, before that story I must share something else which happened sometime the week after Carol’s birthday. We (Kelly, Krista, Carol and I) were sitting in Carol’s room chatting. It was probably “cocktail hour.” Carol asked Kelly for the umpteenth time if he had taken care of making arrangements for her to be cremated. His response was that he had not. She told him if he didn’t get it taken care of she was going to come back as a crow and haunt him. She said something along the lines of “I’ll fly at your head saying caw, caw, caw, you should have listened to mom,” although, I’m not really sure she worded it quite like that. A few days later Kelly came in with the paper work for her to sign so she must have made an impression. After she left us, there was a crow hanging out in the trees by the house. When we saw it we would say “there’s Carol” or “there’s Mom.” It became the standard. I do not believe in reincarnation but truth be told, for some very strange reason it was rather comforting thinking the crow was my sister.

Back to the funeral home . . . we had to go there so Kelly could sign the final papers. The man we visited with asked us several questions to determine how many death certificates might be needed and asked if we wanted to see her again before the actual cremation . . . no. We had already said our goodbyes and did not want to see her body. As we were sitting talking to him, I noticed a crow outside the window and said “Kelly, there’s your mom!” We were chuckling about it. (Laughter is such a wonderful gift. It is the ointment that helps heal the wounds.)The man told us that earlier in the day there was a group of crows out on the lawn, maybe twenty or so, more than he had ever seen there. It was rather weird. We discussed the possibility that they were picking up Carol. Again, it seemed to bring some sort of comfort to all of us. Strange, indeed.  

Something Krista and I noticed in the room we were sitting in was the displays of jewelry and other items made from people’s ashes. There were several different designs and most were quite lovely but they were very pricey. To me, it seemed to be taking advantage of people’s emotions . . . if you really loved them you will spend a lot of money . . . but, there was no pressure, in fact they had not even been mentioned. The man noticed we were looking at them and asked if we were interested in making a purchase . . . he was not at all pushy, just asked the question. We politely said no thank you but, it gave Krista an opportunity to tell him about the pendants she and Stacey make from people’s ashes.

Shortly after I arrived in Portland, I noticed a strikingly beautiful brown square necklace that Krista was wearing and made a comment to that effect. She said “thanks, it’s my cousin.” Umm, OK. At first it seemed rather creepy to think about wearing someone around your neck but I later came to the realization that it wasn’t actually the person . . . the essence of who they are is gone . . . it is just the leftovers. The necklaces are beautiful. They are made from putting ashes between layers of glass which are fused together in a heating process. This picture does not do them justice!

Something else to attend to was to get the hospital bed, wheelchairs, medical supplies and remaining drugs out of the house. Hospice again was so amazing. The very next day after Carol died someone showed up at the house to get the oxygen machine and extra oxygen tanks. Thinking about it, they may have actually come the day she died, I’m not sure. Shortly after that someone arrived to get the hospital bed, wheelchair and walker. When he left we were left with only the wheelchair that Kelly purchased in Maryland for the trek back to Oregon and the bedside potty. The suggestion was given to take it to a medical supply store to see if they might purchase it for resale. Krista and I did just that and it left her with some extra dollars in her pocket and a few less things in the house. When we got back home I gathered up all the unopened medical supplies and the unopened Depends. We filled the back of the car with those items and were able to donate them to an organization which helps people who are unable to afford to purchase such things. It felt good to know those items would be put to good use. The items which had been opened could not be given away. We didn’t feel good about just throwing those things away. I was able to make several “first aide” type boxes from those items so we each had one for home, the car, etc. Krista had spoken with a Hospice nurse who gave her instructions on how to dispose of the remaining drugs. It took us the better part of the day to accomplish all of this but it was cleansing and therapeutic for us so it did not seem like drudgery, at least it didn’t to me; I can’t really speak for Krista. It occupied my mind so I did not dwell on the fact that Carol was dead and gone. It kept me from crying. The tears were right there just waiting for a reason to begin to leave my eyes.  

The next thing that had to be done was to clean the room and clean out the remaining items in the dresser and closet. Cleaning was easy now that the bed, desk and overstuffed chair were out of the room. It took several hours to go through the clothes in the closet. I was able to keep some of the clothes for myself and the rest we took to the resale shop along with her shoes. When I wear her clothes it feels like she is close to me. Again, I know that it is just her clothes, not her, but it makes me feel like she is with me and brings memories of her to mind. I chose to wait on the other items that were in the closet – the boxes and hamper. It will wait for another day.

It seems if you keep yourself busy you don’t dwell on the fact that the person has died. The moment you stop, you remember. There is still numbness and a thought that maybe it isn’t real. The room is empty so it surely must be real. The tears are there but not flowing. Sleep is welcomed.