"No, you did not!"
"Lucy, I had to. She just wasn't wearing the right shade of pink."
When my mother was dying, she went over her wishes with me. She wanted cremation, then to be placed in the columbarium at our family parish. So simple, so clear, these final plans.
I sat in the funeral home office, putting these directives in motion, and I tried to opt out of listening to a detailed description of the cremation process, something the funeral home lady in front of me told me was required by Virginia state law. "I understand," I said, "this was her decision, to be cremated. Let me just sign." The funeral home lady continued to read aloud, finally initialling that she had gone over the process with me and motioning for me to sign next to her initials.
That dry, clinical moment of legalese was far removed from my lovely, fabulous, perfect mother. Thus, when the funeral home lady handed me a catalogue of urns, it became imperative that she have the loveliest, most fabulous, perfect urn possible. I flipped past wooden boxes. I flipped past pewter urns. I didn't know quite what I was looking for, but when I saw it, I knew. And so I spent a large sum on a blue, cloisonne urn done in a pattern called "Thousand Flower", an urn that would be seen just once, at her funeral, then placed behind a marble wall forever. Because I loved her. And I had to.
Many months later, I bought a pair of vases in the same pattern somewhere. I gave one to my brother and kept one for myself. It is on the far right side of the uppermost bookshelf in my bedroom. I look at it every night before I fall asleep. It soothes me.
"I do understand, MPB. Your Merle Norman Tawny Pink Glace lipstick is my blue Thousand Flower urn. Because you loved her."
"And so you had to."