"The box is under the seat," I thought as I situated myself between my sisters in the back seat of the Volkswagen. I could not see the box, but I knew it was there. Unseen, like an abandoned thought, but still, its presence was tangible. Its presence was the purpose of our journey.
The snow-covered highway swirled before us, like a white muslin ribbon. The mountains, tall and muscular, soared paternally above us. I felt small and vulnerable gazing up through the car windows, but at the same time, comforted by their force and beauty. Weaving the ribbon on which we traveled, the snowy peaks held their breath in solemn expectancy of the legacy we were about to leave with them. The legacy was in the box.
Each turn in the road was familiar to me. I'd been this way many times before. The pine trees seemed to recognize me and wave as our car sped past. Frozen meadows lay smothered beneath the undulating slab of thick snow, on top of which mocked icy crystals; flirting with the sun, laughing at the trees, and winking at me.
Restlessly, I shifted in my seat. Were we there yet? The engine struggled as gears shifted in anticipation of the hill we started to climb. My oldest sister, Megan, gazed pensively out the window. Was she hurting inside? I couldn't tell by looking at her. Since my mother had become ill, Megan had been the pillar of strength we all so desperately needed. I glanced at Carrie and then Lissa. Lightly conversing, at times laughing, their tones were hushed, honoring the atmosphere of reverence.
I sat back, curling myself into a ball, leaning my head against Lissa's shoulder. I wanted to sleep the rest of the way, but my mind was filled with unanswered questions: Why me? Why did she have to die? Who was going to take care of me? I was too young to comprehend death, too young to realize the changes it would have on my six-year old life. With confusion and loss gnawing at my heart, I tried to sleep, but sleep would not come.
As I rested, the car slowed down. I sat forward expectantly, hoping we'd reached our destination. We were there. Taking turns, we climbed out of the car while Megan reached under her seat, revealing the box. White as the snow surrounding us, it was glossy and unblemished. Roughly the size of a box of Kleenex, it had metal clasps on top, fastened to secure its contents.
With dignity, she carried the box, leading us up the powdered embankment among the trees. Silently, we followed her, the wind comforting through the pines, offering solace.
After walking half a mile, we stopped. Sunlight filtered through the branches, playing in my sister's hair as she opened the box. Inside the box was a plastic bag. Inside the bag were my mother's ashes. Quietly we scattered them, stunned by the finality engulfing us.
With the aspens as her pallbearers and the wind proffering her epitaph, my mother was laid to rest.