James and I didn't really talk about our final wishes. I was only in my early 30's and he was going to live until he was 80, so we didn't feel there was much of a need to do so. He did know he wanted to be cremated, however, but figured he had plenty of time to figure out where he wanted his ashes spread. Turns out he was wrong.
After James died, I had him cremated as I knew to do so. But since he didn't have time to find the perfect spot to be spread, that meant I didn't know what to do with him. So I put him on the mantle between the picture used at his funerals (yes, plural) and his favorite picture from the cruise we took in 2007 that I'd blown up, framed and given him just a month before as an anniversary of our engagement present. (We didn't celebrate it-I had a coupon for a free 8 x 10 print from Walgreens and that is just how the timing worked out). It was a shrine of sorts but not the least bit over the top as the cruise picture is of the harbor in Ocho Rios, Jamaica and we aren't in it. Most people just think it's a picture of boats unless I explain the significance to them.
James sat on the mantle until December 2010. My best guy pal convinced me we should co-host a Christmas potluck for the New in Town Meetup group members who had nowhere to go. I didn't want to put a damper on things by having to explain who James was so I decided to move him. I'd been feeling it was time to do so anyway. I left the picture of the harbor but moved his picture upstairs to the office and put him on my dresser as I still don't know where to spread the ashes. I've also decided that when the dogs go, I want to cremate them, put them with James and spread them all together. Though the body is just a vessel, I want the boys to be reunited with him and this is how I can make that happen. However, they've been informed they aren't allowed to die so this is really a non-issue.
The other night I was cleaning off my dresser. Being that it is right by the bedroom door, it becomes cluttered easily with socks that didn't quite dry all the way or whose mates ended up in a different load (or abducted by sock monsters), things that need to go downstairs, gifts that don't have a home yet, etc. As I was standing there looking at the dresser, I realized I didn't want James to be there anymore. I don't know where this came from, but the feeling was pretty strong that he just belongs elsewhere now. But where?
My first thought was to put him back on the mantle. But the mantle is now covered with pictures of me and my closest friends, with one exception. The mantle shows where my life is now, and to return James to there would be a step back. (The picture of the harbor is now in the office on one of the bookshelves). Putting him in the office didn't feel right either. I realized as I was trying to find a new home for him I don't want him on public display (although his urn looks like a decorative vase; I chose it for that reason). But I didn't want to shove him in a closet either, so my options were limited.
I put him on the bookshelf in the back bedroom (aka the craft/exercise room). He's there with my mug from my high school graduation night party, my college diploma, my bouquet from my best friend's wedding, a porcelain dove, and a few other memorable items from my transition from child into adult. Incidentally, his black and gold urn matches my diploma.
That same night I had a dream about him. I don't dream about him very often and when I do, it's usually not pleasant. Usually, he's far away for work and due to the time change, I can't get in touch with him, or he's leaving me for someone else. In this dream, I was at a "cabin" in the woods ("cabin" that was bigger than my house!). I was taking a nap and had a dream he was there going through our Tae Kwon Do uniforms. I was worried he was going to be upset to discover I'd given his away (they were in a box I took to Goodwill that day in my for real awake life). But he just put on one of mine and a mullet wig and was pretending to be Elvis. (This is totally something he would have done). I debated for a bit and then went and asked him why he died. I both needed and didn't want to know. He laughed and said "I chose to die so I could lives." While I debated pointing out the use of "lives" as plural vs singular, he just wandered off and disappeared. I woke up from my dream within a dream and my friend was sitting on the bed. She asked who I was talking to-apparently I'd been talking in my sleep but wasn't coherent. I told her about my dream of James and then we went to get a couple of packages ready to be mailed. In my dream, he was definitely happy without a care in the world, which is true to how he was in life as well.
I've felt a sadness the last couple of days since all of this has happened. I know James didn't die on purpose and it was just a dream but it was still hard to have my mind tell me he made a choice and that choice was a life that doesn't include me. It's weird not to have him publicly displayed in my house-the door to the room he is in now is kept closed to keep the boys out. (Most things in my house are somehow "spaniel proofed"), but I don't feel that was the wrong decision either. It's just another step in moving forward-in getting myself to a place where I can let someone else in (in the seemingly unlikely event someone should actually come along, that is) should that be the plan for my life. And there is also the uncertainty of where my life is actually heading these days that is making me want to dig in my heels and just stop time for a few minutes so I can catch my breath, clear my head and my heart and then continue to press on in a way that I can only hope would make James proud.