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My Mother’s Ashes

On Good Friday last week, we spread my mother’s ashes.

She had passed away in late December, and it seemed fitting to wait until spring to fulfill her final wish, which was to have her ashes spread at a few of her favorite places. We debated about whether it was better to separate her ashes or put them all in one place; but in the end, we did what she would have wanted, not what we might have thought was right.

My sister Heidi had the idea to plant trees and spread the ashes around them like fertilizer. And so, we did: We put the ashes in the hole with each tree, and then covered the roots with fresh soil—an oak, a scarlet maple, and a hickory-nut tree (one day, readers, I will share her famous hickory-nut cake recipe with you all!). Heidi also brought crystals to hang from the branches. My mother was famous for sending a crystal to anyone who had recently experienced the death of a loved one—with the message that any time they saw a rainbow, they should think of the person they lost. She loved rainbows. She loved crystals. She loved feeling helpful, and loved feeling needed by others.

It wasn’t a sad day. We were all relieved to see her suffering end. But we did all feel the finality of the moment. I think my mother would feel happy (and probably slightly jealous, although she would hate to admit it) that the family still enjoys being together, and will continue on without her.

One of the things I learned from growing up with her is that we are each on our own journey, with our own personal mission and purpose. She has moved on to the next part of her journey—whatever or wherever that may be. And we are now free to move on with our own journeys.

Who knows where they will lead. But I’m sure there will be rainbows along the way.

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19 Responses to My Mother’s Ashes

  1. Lisa S April 9, 2010 at 8:43 am #

    That’s beautiful Maria. I would think that your mom feels complete.

  2. Bill George April 9, 2010 at 9:35 am #

    Maria, thank you so much for sharing these photos and thoughts. I miss your mother. Like mine, hers was the power of simple truths sincerely lived. But my mother was invisible, for the most part, protected by anonymity; yours managed to keep this sincerity and simplicity, vulnerability and faith, in the maelstrom of power–or at least that’s the way I saw it.

  3. Linda April 9, 2010 at 9:59 am #

    What a nice tribute to your Mom. I lost my Mom almost 2 years ago and I still miss her very much. But she is with me in spirit. She too believed in the power of rainbows. She had a Noah’s arc theme for her decorating, jewelery and even her clothes. When I see a rainbow, I think of her and the promise of the future.

  4. Jill April 9, 2010 at 10:20 am #

    Well done.

  5. Terry Johnson April 9, 2010 at 10:29 am #

    Your mother was my mentor. Every time I received the monthly Prevention (for women) I would go to the last page first to read “Reflections”. I did it for so many years. I was so sad when I learned she had passed away. Last time I went on a trip with my mother, we saw a rainbow and now when I see one I think or her. She’s been gone for more than twenty years but I still miss her.
    I am happy that you keep up the good work and will read you every day.

  6. Donna in Delaware April 9, 2010 at 10:33 am #

    Life comes full circle. We each have our place and time. I hope the trees grow and thrive to their full potential, like your mother, and hopefully you and your children and their children and so on.

    I suppose each colored stripe in the rainbow stands for an achievement in life and the beauty of the rainbow reflects the beauty of our spirit, so yes, it is fitting that your mother loved them and crystals, which are clear and reflects all the beautiful colors of the rainbow. You see, they work beautifully together, like your mom did with others. Bless you all.

  7. Pat Devaney April 9, 2010 at 1:20 pm #

    Maria, so much of what you have written about your mother has had meaning for me in that our lives seem to have many of the same things in them. My mother passed away in May, 2006. One year she had sent a prism to me ,which I have hanging on a lamp, to which I haven’t paid much attention lately. Thank you for telling us about the crystal . It reminds me to go clean up the prism and hang it in the sun to remind me that she is in a good place after all the suffering.

  8. Kimi April 9, 2010 at 1:23 pm #

    Hi, Maria! I’m sorry to hear of your Mom’s passing just now, but such a fitting tribute to her. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Teddy April 9, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

    My younger sister and I also scattered or Mother’s ashes. She wanted to be with our Father in the rose garden in So. Calif. So, we took some of her ashes, mixed them in a bag with dried rose petals. When we stopped to picnic some ashes and petals were taken from the bag and joined us. As we traveled south we left ashes in many places. Mainly by opening the car window and letting her fly. Mom was a great traveler as was my Fater. So we enjoyed this trip and g

  10. aldinha aguiar April 9, 2010 at 4:15 pm #

    Maria – Thank you for sharing. My Mama passed away just 2 weeks ago on Palm Sunday. We were saddened but glad her suffering had ended too. They will be with us forever in our hearts.

  11. Cyndie April 9, 2010 at 6:09 pm #

    ….that is beautiful….now through the years you will watch these tree grow and flourish….and live a very long time!!!

  12. Anne April 9, 2010 at 11:00 pm #

    Dear Maria,
    What a beautiful loving tribute to your mother with her ashes just as she wanted. I am sure that she is watching over you and your loved ones every day and night.
    God Bless!!!

  13. Ferne April 12, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    i grew up with Ardie, our houses were back to back. Her mother was a loving person and capable of teaching good habits, ideas, originality in arts and crafts, etc. Ardie followed in her foot steps, and I was glad and proud to have her as a cousin.

  14. Gale April 13, 2010 at 8:31 am #

    It’s really nice to read your musings.

  15. Mary P Cheney April 13, 2010 at 5:40 pm #

    What a loving tribute to your mother and as someone who was blessed by knowing her, I would like to add these words.

    In the 1990’s while working with Dr. Beasley in his Amityville clinic, I had the opportunity to meet your family while they were taping a documentary on our medical clinic.

    In 1999, Dr Beasley and I shared with your mother the idea of starting a non-profit program called the “Addiction End Program” that would educate and empower individuals by using the power of the Internet and books to provide information on holistic recovery tools.

    Your mother’s loving guidance and encouragement, her belief in our cause, as well as, her financial support (she was our very first donor) made our dream for this nonprofit become a reality.

    Now ten years later, we have spread the word by speaking at conferences from not only California to Maine, but even to South America. We have published numerous books (including a whole foods cook book) and have produced our first dietary supplement (Natural High NTR).

    But what has made us the most proud is that we have helped thousands of individuals and family members start a recovery program and/or stay in recovery.

    All of this would not have been possible if it was not for Ardath Rodale.

  16. Joyce Marin April 14, 2010 at 12:01 pm #

    Maria,
    Your mother was an inspiration to me and many people in the community and the world. I will always be grateful to have known her. Her quiet support for many good works early in the process made many wonderful things happen. Her encouragement strengthened me and her example inspired me. I was a beneficiary of one of those crystals when my mother-in-law passed. In a way, she will always be with us.

  17. Joan April 15, 2010 at 11:53 am #

    My mother died suddenly a year ago April 7-It has been a terribly sad year for my brother and 3 sisters and I. So my sister decided we needed to finally celebrate Mama’s life and death at this one year mark. so we all piled into my brothers car, bought cheese pizza and hot dogs(her two favorite junk foods) and Frostys from Wendy’s and headed for the cemetary. We spread a blanket, talked and laughed about the absurdity of the “Celebration” and how she would have loved it- she always loved picnics!
    We now have that great memory instead of the sad day of 2009.

  18. Renae April 16, 2010 at 4:05 pm #

    Maria, Heather, Heidi, Anthony…
    I’m a little late in reading this, but glad I did. Your mother was a wonderful person that I’ve known her for many, many years. She was like a mother to us all at Rodale and I do miss her wonderful laugh.
    I was one of the recipients of her crystals when my mom passed away almost four years ago. To this day, it hangs in the front window of my parent’s home and my dad often comments about all of the rainbows in the morning. I believe it brings him comfort and peace knowing that “mom” is still there with him.
    You (and I) were very lucky people to have known and loved Ardie.

  19. Jane April 20, 2010 at 6:59 pm #

    I, among so many others, have had my life here in the Lehigh Valley greatly enriched by knowing your wonderful mother. It was always such a pleasure to run into her – to stop and chat…

    To have her ashes now enrich the soil around newly planted trees – so lovely; so fitting!

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful tribute.

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