March 15, 2011
I have never quite had to decide what my thoughts were on cremation before. I guess I never really cared for the idea, but then again, I never did have to make the decision before whether I wanted to have a loved one cremated or buried. To think back over the past three and a half weeks and ponder the decisions we have had to make I can only credit God with the clear understanding of how we were able to make any of them.
Even on the way up to the hospital on Friday Rob and I pretty much had decided that rather than a burial we wanted to go with cremating Trent's body. After seeing his shell at the hospital and knowing there was no soul left made the decision seem easier yet. Thinking over the next couple of days before we had to meet with the funeral director we both agreed that we did not want his body to be left here at some place that he never was for us to feel obligated to go kneel down in front of. It was a very freeing thought to not have his body tied here to this earth where we would be so tempted to leave it attached to this world rather than releasing every part of him to be in heaven where his soul is.
Part of the cremation process is to decide what to do with the ashes. Three years ago we took a trip to Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, MO, for Trent's golden birthday. We had always told him we would take a trip back down there someday. Trent's birthday was on March 10 so as a family we decided to take our last trip with Trent's remains to Springfield, MO, and release his ashes along the way in places that would honor who he was and what he loved.
The first place on the list was Lake Beauty Bible Camp in Long Prairie, MN. Lake Beauty has been a central part of our family for years and years. As a child I attended the youth camps there and as a family we have enjoyed family camps there for over 11 years. Our year was based around going to family camp~ we scheduled our school year to be finished before camp, summer ended and school started again after family camp, money was saved (from family devotion answers that Dad would tally up) and earned to go garage saleing on the way to family camp. They are weekends of total indulgence in enjoying time together as a family while being surrounded by other Christians and eating lots of good food. When Trent was little (4 years old) he was fearless and climbed the tower and jumped down the zip line for the first time on their high ropes course. Many years followed that he continued to enjoy the high ropes courses, along with paintball, swimming, boating, botche ball, carpet ball, night time black-light dodge ball, being first in the food line, friends, speakers, and campfires.
Since so many of our favorite family times have been spent at camp we contacted Brian and asked if we could spend some time with the staff who are like family and release some of Trent's ashes from the top of the tower. I guess there has never been a request made like that before at camp but Brian was happy to entertain us and welcomed us up for the afternoon. It is hard to know if you should be happy to take a trip to camp to release your sons ashes, or be sad, or somewhere in the middle. God chose to give us great joy and excitement as we headed out Tuesday morning.
It was wonderful to pull up at camp and see all the familiar faces we love so much. I wasn't sure (again) if I could get through this one-more-thing without losing it until Kristen walked out of the lodge and gave me a great big hug and told me that she had walked up to the tower that morning and prayed over the place that God would move in a great way that day. Again I was reminded that God's plans are perfect, even in this.
We spent time hugging and sharing with the staff just how good God has been to us. Then we headed up to the tower. The staff got us all harnessed up and we took the inside stairs up to the top. Brian and our family stood on top and had a time of prayer as we again praised God for His good works and again proclaimed our trust in His plans for His children. As with everything else up to this point we offered the kids to choose if they wanted to take part or not. They all chose to release some ashes except for Micah who is so little. To see the ashes the day before was hard. To think about putting my hand in that bag and holding them was harder. But, like everything else, I determined to go straight through it (versus going around, stuffing, side stepping, coming back and grieving it in twenty years) with God's strength. With a smile on my face I released the ashes. Then more and more and more. Rob was last to release the remainder of his son's ashes.
Go in peace Trent. We will not hold you here.
We could just imagine Trent standing up there with us, getting ready to jump off fearlessly in a swan dive down the 300+ foot zip line. If I could have I would have jumped fearlessly down the zip line, too, just because I know God would have caught me in the harness. He will catch us wherever He leads us. There was a bit of time left to share again with the staff and encourage each other, then it was off to hit the road as we hoped to make it to Iowa before a big snow storm hit.
Trent loved hunting! There were few things he talked about as much as hunting. In the past few months of his life he talked about how he wanted to go deer hunting in Iowa and if he ever moved it would be to a big plot of land in Iowa because the hunting was so good. Iowa?? I always envision Iowa as corn fields and lakes from childhood vacations to Uncle Evert and Aunt Eva's house on the lake.
On Trent's golden birthday trip we had seen the signs for the covered bridges in Madison County and had talked about going back to visit them one day. Wednesday afternoon we drove through Madison County again and I brought up the idea that we could release some of his ashes from one of the bridges. Now, just for the record, lest you think we are one big happy family all the time, I have to make a note here that this thought did not receive unanimous cheers. There were those who were concerned about time and miles and distance; those who just wanted to get to the pool; and those who wanted his ashes released somewhere that would have deer and turkey because, after all, Trent wanted to move to Iowa for the hunting not the bridges. After sulking just a smidgen the decision was made to see just how far away the bridges were, and if they were close enough we would stop on the way down rather than the way home (which is a good thing we did as on the way home it was dark and we had a goat in the van).
After finding a map and looking at the different options we decided on the Roseman Bridge. We drove through lots of snow covered back roads before we came to the quiet little bridge. It turned out to be just the kind of place that Trent would have loved~ a river, beautiful woods surrounding it, turkey and deer in the fields along the way. We all spent some quiet time releasing his ashes where we chose and then just enjoyed the beautiful bridge together.
Next on the list was Springfield, MO. It was pretty late getting into Springfield and we were all a bit tired of the van. Heading onto Sunshine Street hit both Rob and I pretty hard as we remembered three years ago the excitement to be here with Trent. After spending some time crying in the hotel bathroom I finally got my swimsuit on and we all headed down to the pool. Alexis did a belly flop into the pool, came up, and said "Trent, that was for you!".
On Thursday we headed over to Bass Pro Shop and relived the excitement of seeing the store again. When we walked into the front entrance three years ago the seven of us just stood there in awe, jaws dropped, looking at all the displays. On this day the six of us did the same thing, but this time I held my hand in my pocket holding onto my bag of ashes, loving God for how He had planned everything out and being honored to be able to have a son in heaven.
As our final releasing we have saved some of the ashes to spread at the farm~ probably at the cabin sight where we enjoyed so many picnics, playing in the mud, building projects, and just happy afternoons. Rob wants to climb up into the deer stand and release some from there, too. Trent and Cole had a log cabin that they were building together and we may spread some there, as well. Farewell my son. Just like I told you all those times~ "If you go first, I'll see you when I get there."
To see the post with pictures click here.