February 14, 2017
It’s Valentine’s Day and Barry’s ashes just arrived at my apartment. I donated his body to the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Anatomy Bequest Program. A little persistence on my part helped him get accepted into the program. A couple of years ago, I called to see if I could donate his body but they were not taking anyone who could not make the choice on their own and sign the donation forms. When I called the U of M, Barry’s FTD was too far advanced for him to make the decision on his own. So I forgot about it for a year. Then one, warm summer day I decided to try again. I remember wondering to myself how it could be so beautiful outside yet here I was making this sad call to donate my sick husband’s body. The woman at the U of M repeated that they were not taking any second party bodies at this time. But then she paused and asked what he had that made him unable to sign the paperwork. When I told her Barry suffered from FTD, she told me to please hang on for a moment. Very quickly she got back to me saying they would take him after all. I filled out the paperwork and sent it off before they could change their minds. In the meantime, Barry continued the long, slow work of dying.
I didn’t know what to expect once he died after the people from the U of M picked him up at the care center. I was surprised they were done with him so quickly. I was hoping their work would take months and months, maybe even years, but it took just two months and I was reminded again of what this poor man went through. During his time at the U of M, I tried hard to not think about him lying on a table with students studying him inside and out. I hoped with all my heart that Barry would have been fine with this, but I will never know for sure.
Now he is with me in my apartment, a place he never lived in or even saw. I feel bad that he missed so much because of FTD. But now he is here, sitting on my newly cleared table that had been cluttered with paperwork and unwritten thank you notes from his funeral. It is the same table that each Valentine’s Day held a beautiful bouquet of flowers from Barry. This year Barry takes up the empty space where the flowers once sat. I am organized now and ready to begin Barry’s final journeys. I feel happy I can do this for him and am certain he would be pleased at my choices.
First I need to get a big box to decorate and keep some of his ashes here. I will also need a couple of smaller boxes to hold some ashes that I will take to scatter in special places. Our first stop will be at my favorite trail up near Grand Marias. It’s the one where I found that special lion’s mane mushroom stuck to a blown down tree. I want to feel Barry’s presence there each time I go looking for mushrooms. His sickness led me there so it seems right that he should be there each time I hike that trail.
Next stop? To southern California and his favorite spot overlooking the Pacific Ocean where we spent many family vacations.
I couldn’t stop his FTD suffering, but I, damn it, am going to help him rest in peace.