This past weekend, my friend Donna and her family buried her parent’s remains in the beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Colorado. It was a beautiful goodbye. Donna has been an inspiration to me through the years and she was kind enough to answer questions about planning a memorial service for two sets of ashes.
Were both of your parents cremated?
Yes, both parents were cremated following their funerals. We had open caskets in the foyer of the church, and we escorted the closed caskets into the ceremony at the church where they worshiped. We chose very special urns for each of them. Cremation took place the same day as the funerals. We received their urns the next Day.
How long did you wait after their passing before scheduling this ceremony?
Because our Dad passed away suddenly on Christmas Day, at the age of 88, our Mom was cared for by all eight of us siblings in their home of 64 years. At 90+ years, Mom was sometimes confused, about where he went. We took pictures of her saying good bye to him at the funeral and had to gently remind her he was in heaven and shared the pictures of her saying goodbye. His urn was kept in her China cupboard until she passed away in their home 1.5 years later.
With 8 kids in the family, was it hard to get everyone to agree on the idea, or was this preplanned by your parents?
My Dad always told us to bury him in Tercio, CO. Mom didn’t want to be buried there because she says it gets too cold and far from home. She wanted to stay closer to ‘home’. After some inquiry about the cemetery there in Tercio, where my Dad grew up, we decided they both should be buried there. At first, I felt sad to leave their remains out there, but it is such a beautiful place and they had a ranch not far from there that they visited and loved for 20 years after my Dad’s retirement.
Was this in a cemetery or private land?
It is a very old cemetery and most folks buried there are local families.
My brothers worked with the folks that managed the cemetery. They requested that we not drive on the property but keep vehicles outside the fence.
One week before the burial, all 6 brothers prepared the site and brought the beautiful granite marker and base. Then the day before the burial , our youngest brother, dug the 3′ X 3′ hole and later in the day, we all watched as our brothers laid their urns in an urn vault and sealed them. The next day, the ashes were transported to the cemetery. At the cemetery, the urn vaults were wrapped in a white sheet next to the hole where they were buried.
After a familiar church song and prayer and scripture reading led by my sister who is a licensed Minister, four of the oldest nephews lowered the sheet in to the hole and wrapped the sheet around the urn vaults. Each of us, shovel by shovel committed our parents ashes to the beautiful mountains.
There was so much peace and strength from each other. Every one who wanted to share their appreciation to our parents, did so. Very warm and caring with tears and laughter. One special person, took all of our Mom’s costume jewelry, necklaces, beads, earrings and fashioned bracelets and necklaces for all the female survivors, daughters, daughters in law, grand daughters, grand daughters in law…each picked something they would treasure.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Because there are so many of us surviving siblings, we always met or included each other in any decisions by meeting in person or texting. We made decisions by only meeting with the siblings and not our spouses. We knew our parents, and we knew how they expected us to be respectful of each other with love and dignity. We were taught to love God, despise evil and make good choices. We are very close to each other. I am glad I moved back here to help with our parents.