Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I Didn’t Take Her With Me

Early this morning, I was roused from a long and deep sleep by an insistent buzzing in the bedroom. It took me a second to realize that it was one of our phones. I checked the clock: a little before 5AM. Who could be calling at that hour? As soon as I picked up my phone off the bedside table, I realized it was an alert for a tornado warning. I installed the app only just last night, knowing that tornados might develop overnight and not wanting to sleep through life-threatening weather. I said to Ed, “It’s a tornado warning,” and immediately got out of bed to get ready to go to the basement. I threw on some clothes, not knowing how long we might be down there, and went to get the baby out of the room next door. I dreaded waking her, mostly because I was sure she would not go back to sleep after everything calmed down. I grabbed Ada out of her crib, alarmed that I couldn’t see anything out of her windows due to fog.

I went straight to the basement while Ed got Jackson out of his room downstairs. Jackson was, of course, excited to be up at this hour and crammed into a closet with Mommy, Daddy, and Bess. And there we sat for about 20 minutes until we got an all-clear alert on the phones. We never even heard any thunder or wind—nothing but hard rain.

Ed took Jackson back to his room, and I took Ada back to hers, hoping that the dark would encourage her to go back to sleep for a little longer. I laid her in the crib and then sat down in the glider next to the crib and waited for her to fall asleep or at least to settle down enough that I might sneak out of the room without her noticing.

Only then did it hit me. In my haste to get all of us down into the basement quickly, I’d left Hudson’s ashes on the bedside table. It never even occurred to me to pick them up. Our house might have been torn off of its foundation by a tornado, and Hudson’s ashes would have gone with it.

Many lifetimes ago, I thought it macabre to keep a loved one’s ashes in your house. I had no idea what the fuck I was talking about. While I have no idea how I felt about it around the time Hudson died, after she died, there was no question but that some of her ashes would always stay in or near our house. I had originally thought to sprinkle some at the base of a few trees we’d eventually plant in some special places, but four years later, the only bit of her ashes that has parted from us lays at the base of a gorgeous dogwood tree near her bench at the Arboretum. And even those were very hard to part with.

In the first year after Hudson died, I made sure to take her ashes with us whenever we were away from home for any long period of time during which our house might catch on fire or get damaged in a storm. I did not want to risk losing them under any circumstances.

Sometime between then and now, that changed. I have no idea when. But her ashes have not left my bedside table since I first placed them there when we moved into this house thirteen months ago.

And all I could think about as I sat in the dark next to Ada’s crib this morning, listening to her rustle around as she tried to fall back asleep, was that I had left Hudson’s ashes behind. When I was getting the rest of my family to a safe place, I didn’t take her with me.

It felt like a betrayal. An ultimate symbolic act of leaving her behind as our life hurtles forward without her.

I didn’t take her with me.


  1. Oh Mandy. Not a betrayal.

    Do you know when we had a house fire last year I did actually go back in to get Georgina's ashes - after I had hustled the other two out and left them with a neighbour. But, with hindsight it was a pretty stupid thing to do and only confirmed what I already know, that she isn't there. Having her ashes wasn't any comfort. Taking her with me, leaving her behind, they are both the same action. She is gone.

    I wish that she wasn't. And I so deeply wish that Hudson wasn't either. Even though I was never lucky enough to meet her, she is so often in my thoughts.

    It is the love that endures, the love that is all that we can take with us when we ourselves become ashes. And you couldn't leave your love for Hudson behind no matter how hard you tried.

  2. Catherine's is a perfect response... beautiful and true.