My grandparents were a big part of my life. I can remember flying to visit them all by my self at the age of five. There was hardly a summer I didn’t spend a large amount of time with them. My grandmother was infinitely patient with me throughout my life. She taught me to play scrabble, draw, swim and cook. They both supportively listened to my eccentric adventures as I grew up. One of my fondest memories is how everyday my grandfather would come home from work with a small present for my brother and I and my grandmother would always tell him to stop or he would spoil us, but he never stopped.
My grandmother passed away several years ago at the age of 86. On one of my visits with my grandfather after she passed away, he took me to a room and showed me the box that contained her ashes. He told me he wanted to save them and have them spread with his when he passed on. My grandfather went on to enjoy another 6 years of life. He passed away in 2007.
My grandparents didn’t want a service and they were very existential people, so it took my brother and I a fair amount of time to reflect on their passing and to organize a time and a place to spread their ashes. We chose the winter solstice as a time and Fort Snelling State Park in St Paul, MN as the place. We walked down the trails along the Minnesota River and spread their ashes on a backwater slough. The family liked the idea of their ashes mixing among the spring flood waters, and washing down the Mississippi River towards the Gulf a Mexico which was a place that they enjoyed living on for 32 years. The park is also a place that is easy for me to visit in my travels back and forth from Alaska.
After spreading their ashes, we celebrated their lives by going to a delicatessen in St. Paul. This was a favorite ritual for a couple that grew up in New York City and met when they where both 10 years old. My grandmother was fond of pickled tongue, but they didn’t have it on the menu, so I ordered a rueben.
To put closure to the ritual my brother and I each saved a small mixed bag of ashes from both grandparents to spread separately with each of our families. I chose to spread the remaining ashes along the our trail at Wisco Road property in the Chequamagon National Forest. Now their DNA can flow down the Lake Superior watershed as well.
Juliet Stern Ross 1913-1999
Robert Benson Ross 1913-2007