Once upon a time, I had no idea what this word meant, and my brother explained it to me an outrageously condescending tone.  It was so belittling that to this day, I use the word and then immediately give the definition, so no one feels like bottom of the shoe scum like I did that day.

My mother has a cenotaph, a monument or grave marker in honor of a person whose remains are elsewhere. She wished to have a stone that is very basic with her name and birth/death year in Spring Grove in a family plot and her cremains scattered on the hill side of her family home. And that worked for us and seemed the perfect way to remember her.  For me, she is not there. I have only visited it three times in almost six years. Her memory is more in the lily of the valley that I transplanted from her house  to my back yard before she went in the nursing home.

When my brother passed, he wished to be cremated and his cremains distributed no fewer than four places with some locations 700 miles away. It was also decided that he too needed a cenotaph and I would oversee making that happen. You can only imagine the irony I felt, not to mention other emotions.  There was much back and forth with Spring Grove and follow up and more follow up. But finally, they told me the stone had been set.

I went to see it right before Christmas. It looks exactly like I had approved on the drawing, matches my mother’s in font and form perfectly. They are a stone’s throw from each other in the maternal grandmother family plot which seems nice. It was harder than I had anticipated to see both those stones there together. I wish I could say I felt closure; but I do not. I do feel closer to closure.

Maybe in March when the final voyage of my brother is over (and he stops living in my dining room), I will feel closure. Or at least more people know what a cenotaph is and won’t be stuck feeling stupid when the term comes up. I’d count that as a win.

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