Dee Dee Family Life Changes

Ashes to Ashes…with Sunglasses

little-girl-talking-on-phoneI remember the day very clearly, a call came from the funeral home and the warm friendly voice on the other end said “Dee Dee this is Phil at Burnett-Dane.  Your Mother needs to be picked up” he went on “I think she is tired of endless games of gin rummy in the back room with the boys”.   Please, I thought, she would never want to go if she were playing cards, certainly not if she was winning, and certainly not if she were the center of attention.  He continued “She can’t just stay here; really you need to come get her”.  I sighed, and agreed to a time to pick her up.

I pulled up and parked in the lot, went inside and met Phil.  He said he’d bring her right out, and he would walk her to the car.  He came out of his office carrying the white gift bag with the blue fleur-de-lis and cherubs on it, and motioned me ahead, and proceeded to my car, where he carefully placed the bag containing my mom in the passenger seat and buckled her in.   I asked “where did you get that bag”? , he said “I looked for a special one for her”.  He expressed his condolences once again and waved goodbye to me.  So there I was with mom in the passenger seat of my 1998 Gold Altima, hardly the grand white hearse she had probably imagined, and that bag.  She would hate that bag and probably the understated urn, but it was temporary, no big deal, and get over the bag.

I’m always relieved when someone is delivering
a eulogy and I realize I’m listening to it.
                                       George Carlin

My mother never talked about death.  It wasn’t on her radar and apparently not something that was going to happen to her, so

Diane Raye, American Burlesque Girl

Diane Raye, American Burlesque Girl

consequently after death issues were not discussed.  So it was left up to me.   I decided on cremation because I was worried about her being alone with no visitors in a cemetery; I mean suppose I move?   I thought she would be pleased because, you see I had a plan that we (I) would take mom on trips to places she loved, and we would leave a bit of her in each place.  The former Croydon Hotel at Rush and Ontario; at 606 S. Wabash (the former home of the 606 Club); timessquareher grandmother’s grave in Virginia; Times Square in New York; London’s Palladium and of course Paris, sprinkled ceremoniously in the Seine! seine A world tour of putting Diane to rest in all her favorite places!  How fun and exciting would this be!?  What I had not counted on was that she would pass a few weeks after 9/11 and that taking little baggies of Mom in a powdered state on a plane could be problematic, in fact impossible.  So 13 years later Mom is still in the blue and white bag, tucked between the book case and the dresser in my guest room, and this poses a problem.  What happens if I grab it to move it? Will it rip because of its age? Of course I wonder how long it can just stay there; but where else would I put her?  At some point I would like to move and then will be forced to dislodge the bag. What if I can’t remember where I left her?   I don’t have a “display” area to mention, not that that appeals to me, because the urn, well, the urn is another story.

Quick to the rescue   my childhood friend Paula  said “how about I take her to Florida? Didn’t she have family there? Didn’t you live there? Maybe we can spread her! But be sure to get a sturdy bag for the trip”!  So the search began for the new bag in order to make the trip, one befitting the remains of Diane Raye, “American Burlesque Girl” a name given her in the London papers early in her career.  Because Florida here she comes!

Cremation is a funny thing to those of us left holding the bag..and I mean literally holding the bag.

                                                                                 — Dee Dee


  • When my mom passed, with my dad already gone & cremated, we decided to fulfill my mom’s wishes. She also wanted to be cremated, SO after, I placed her with him and on top, where she told me she wanted to be forever……God, she had such a sense of humor. I miss them both so much.

    • that was a touching story. I am sure it had to have been the hardest decision you ever had to make in live.

  • Love this post. When my sister and I picked up our mother’s ashes from the funeral home, we went out to dinner at her favorite restaurant in her little town in Indiana. We told our mother that unfortunately she’d have to stay in the car because the restaurant didn’t understand about ashes. We buried most of her next to our dad, I had 2 brass and mother of pearl apple containers each holding some ashes engraved with our mother’s name, date of birth and date of death and gave those to siblings as keepsakes. I kept a baggie full of ashes. I sealed some in a paper envelope when I went to England in 1998, kept it in my pocket, then in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey I tore open the side of the envelope, put the ashes in my hand and put them behind a statue. Took another envelope of ashes to Wrigley Field and did the same thing at the side of the opposing dugout. I have plans for more ash deposit sites. Great to know other folks have creative ash placement ideas!

  • That is amazing Kathy that at that age she would want to donate. My husband donated and was at the same facility for two years before I got his ashes. This is surely a discussion that we all need to have no matter how uncomfortable it might seem. Dee did it with style in the Neiman bag. Only Dee.

  • Nice piece — and a good reminder that we all need to do our kids a favor and talk about our deaths and what we want, or don’t want. My mother is currently at the rose garden at the Botanic Garden, in the woods behind my house, and a couple other places… but first she spent 18 months at Loyola School of Medicine helping young doctors get educated about the human body. Imagine she was one of the oldest (101) cadavers they ever dealt with!

    • Hi Kathy, it’s me Paula Mann (L.)
      I think that is great that your Mom spent another year and half living it up with a pile of young doctors. I am thinking of doing the same. It will give me a chance to interact for just a bit longer, and men still have hair at the age they are residents.
      Good choice by Mom.

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