On Saturday, I woke up for the first time to a world without my mother. Among my tasks, that day was to arrange her cremation and burial, pick up her belongings at the hospital, and notify necessary contacts, all on a Memorial Day weekend.
My call to the Neptune Society was answered by someone who assured me that he’d have someone call me back that afternoon and sure enough, Natalie called. In those surreal hours as I wrestled with my mother’s loss, it was reassuring to speak with her and learn such good things about what to expect with my mother’s cremation, remains, and scattering at sea. She was patient, kind, and so helpful.
Later, I called her back and asked if I could meet the driver and send off my mother from the hospital, and to my surprise, she agreed and arranged the meeting! I was even more surprised when the driver called and offered me an ETA, plenty of time for me to get to the hospital from San Francisco.
Harlan met me at Marin General Hospital and greeted me with gentle compassion and a very pleasant conversation as we walked together. In the morgue, I stood by the door watching Harlan move my mother with dignity, placing her in a rich purple cloth that he carefully folded and tucked as precisely as origami, wrapping her up like a beautiful gift. I was deeply moved by Harlan’s care and the beauty he brought to my mother’s final presentation. I know she would have appreciated how careful and respectful he was and how perfect she looked.
Harlan and I walked out together with my mother, and I was glad to be near her once again, just to be there with her in this momentary grace. After Harlan placed my mother in the van, we chatted briefly, then I thanked him and said goodbye. As they drove away, I waved until they were no longer in view. It was something my mother always did when we left her house. I could always count on her standing at the carport, waving at me and me waving back until my car rounded the corner.
It was a lovely thing to see my mother off with Harlan. I’ll never forget his kindness that evening. I can’t thank him and Natalie enough for helping me to navigate this difficult process and for bringing dignity, humanity, and patience with every step.