LC Van Savage
I'm ashamed to admit that I am someone who is guilty of always rushing to judgment. Of course in my case, I rush in every direction as I hear different versions of the same tale. I will firmly pass judgment on an issue on Monday, but by Wednesday I've refirmly repassed.
Thus true to form, I rushed to judgment a couple of weeks ago when a friend of mine pointed to a huge Winnebago parked in the street near his home, a small car hitched behind it. He said to me, "You know, the man who owns that comes from a couple of states away and is staying with our neighbors. His plan is to take a long trip in it, and guess what?"
"What?" says I.
"He's got his wife's ashes in that RV with him."
"No," says I. "That's creepy. You're kidding! Ugh!"
"No, really, it's true," says he. "I'm not kidding. His wife died very suddenly, and they'd been planning the trip. So after she was cremated, he put her ashes into the RV to be with him, and he's going on that trip anyway."
"No way!" says I. "I don't believe you. You are putting me on."
He said to go look inside, so I did, knowing the owner of the RV was in a nearby home. I nervously hoped he wouldn't see me snooping. I stood on tiptoe and looked into the driver's area and saw a towel-covered box on the passenger seat. Yes indeed, that could very well be the man's wife's ashes.
"Ew, that just creeps me out," I said. "How on earth can he do that? Yuck. That's just so gross."
I went home, my thoughts filled with the bizarrness of what I'd just seen. How the heck could anyone do such a thing? It just wasn't normal. It wasn't even proper. (Like I know from proper.) I was certain some church somewhere would think this whole thing was against all that was, well I don't know. Against something.
I simply couldn't forget about this. Was it for me to judge? No. Was it for me to even think about this man I'd never even met, and his decision? No. If he'd asked my advice about this, would I have had the right to tell him not to do it? No. Did I have the right to even decide to myself whether this man was doing something slightly off the curve? No. Was it my place to even give five seconds of judgment about something so private? No.
But I had an opinion, and a strong one, one that came to me about two days later. I began to think that this man, the owner of the big Winnebago, was doing something incredibly beautiful and loving. He was honoring a wife he adored who'd left him so suddenly in death, though he had done everything possible to save her. I began to really like this guy.
Think about it. He and his wife of many years, finally retired, were planning the trip of their lives. Maps had been accumulated, arrangements made, sights anticipated, fun and laughter looked forward to. Everything was in place, even the launch date. And then she got cancer and died.
I am no longer creeped out at this, (as if I had any right to be in the first place.) And I am learning about that rushing to judgment thing. Alas, I'm sure it's a habit so ingrained in me, I'll probably do it again. And again. But I now think this story is about one of the most joyous I've ever heard, and I feel honored to "know" this man even though I don't and never will.
Think about it. As far as he's concerned, they're taking the trip anyway. I suspect he talks a lot to that towel covered box on the seat next to him as they drive together across the country. I suspect he describes to her all the things he's seeing, things they'd planned to see together. I hope he's found a measure of happiness doing this. I suspect his beloved wife hears every word he says, and I know she's laughing, and loving the trip.
I wish them both Bon Voyage.
"To Norma Jeane with Love, Jimmie"
co-authored with Marilyn Monroe's first husband,
is at local bookstores.
Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org