Monday, December 12, 2011

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust: The story of how Daddy ended up in a green box and how we learned to laugh again.

This time of year always brings back memories of Daddy Lister (Papi Lister) and his last days with us. My step-father passed away right before Christmas and forever changed the way our family would think of the holiday season -- as well as how we would come to view an ordinary gift box.

Confused? Well, let me explain. My mom has always been a strong caretaker. She took care of us kids. She took care of her mother, her sisters and also my father until he passed away. And, until the cancer finally won, she took care of Daddy Lister. After his passing, finding just the right place for his ashes was the last thing she would ever do for him. And so the guest began. What would eventually unfold is the stuff of legend in our family.

It all began when mom first brought my step-father’s ashes home and placed them on the kitchen table. My husband at the time came in. Not knowing the contents of the box, he moved it out of the way -- into the laundry room. On the floor. Right next to the cat’s litter box! OMG!...When mom made the discovery, I could barely understand what she was saying because she was crying so hard: “Someone...put Lister...on the floor...right next to cat poop.”

After many apologies, we moved Daddy Lister to the guest room and my daughter and I escaped the tension to do some necessary Christmas shopping. Some of our new-found purchases came with beautiful, silver-bowed gift boxes -- one green and one blue. When we got back home, I used the green box to wrap a present for my mother-in-law and placed it under the tree. Some time later, my mom spotted the green, velvet box and decided it would be the perfect place to put Daddy Lister. Without a moment’s hesitation, I agreed and swapped out the present into the empty blue box.

Now this is when good communication would have worked to our advantage because when mom got into the car to go to dinner and my husband saw her carrying that green box in her lap, assumptions were made. Concerned with her reaction, he took me aside and he whispered “are you OK with your mom taking Lister with us to dinner?”

When mom heard the story she couldn’t help herself. Mom had not laughed in quite a while so I was tickled to hear her first chuckle, then a contained snicker, then she was in all-out hysterical laughter. Soon we were all laughing so hard our sides hurt with running tears and all. It was exactly what we needed. If only for a moment, normality returned. Joy happened. The pain subsided.

I guess life is like that. Just when you think you can’t take any more, there’s a moment. Something funny happens and you forget for a split second how sad you are. You surrender sorrow, you smile, you get a funny feeling inside and, finally, you just have to laugh.

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