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THE PLACES I'VE LEFT CHRIS

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THE PLACES I'VE LEFT CHRIS

Cindy Maddera

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I did not anticipate the strange photo album that would be born from leaving Chris's ashes in the places I visited. I remember laying in bed one night with Chris. This was after the final "keep him comfortable there's nothing we can do" diagnosis. We were just laying there talking about nothing and everything. The subject of cremation came up and I asked him "So...what do you want me to do with your ashes?". His reply was "I don't know." He asked me what I wanted to do with my own ashes and I told him about maybe being dumped in with the elephants in the zoo. I told him how I'd said that to my mom once and she'd totally ruined the idea by saying "so then the elephants would poop on you". He never answered my question. We just sort of skipped passed it. I was always bothered by how the ashes of Chris's dad were just displayed in a typical urn on top of the TV. I wasn't disturbed by the idea of people ashes. It just bothered me that placing him on top of the TV surrounded by a few trinkets was how they decided to honor this man's life. But really, all I had ever known of the man was that he spent a lot of time sitting in front of the TV. I wanted something different (better) for Chris. That something different is growing into quite the collections of Places I've Left Chris. I knew that there would be several places on this last trip that I'd want to leave Chris. I'd made the mistake of not taking enough to leave in other places when I went to Ireland. I needed to take more ashes than the little travel boxes I had could hold, so I filled a hot salsa jar with Chris's ashes. Some may think it is a bit irreverent to fill up a hot salsa jar with someone's ashes. I found it appropriate for Chris, lover of all things hot and spicy. I'd once witnessed Chris slice up a Habanero pepper and place it on his hamburger. There'd be a couple of times we'd end up pouring some of those ashes into a travel sized toothpaste box, the box being easier to smuggle. The container doesn't matter.

I would have liked to have left some of his ashes at the wood chipper in Fargo, but since it was housed inside the Fargo Travel Center, I thought better of it. I didn't really want his ashes to end up sitting inside a vacuum cleaner in a closet somewhere in the travel center. Instead I left some at the World's Largest Buffalo. And it was the thought of leaving Chris's ashes at Devil's Tower that inspired Talaura to put that on our list of things. Of course there really was no way we could get that close to Devil's Tower and not go out of our way to leave some of Chris there. I can't even tell you how many times Close Encounters was quoted in this house. Though it would have been funny to be able to leave some of Chris's ashes right under Washington's nose at Mt. Rushmore, I discreetly left him in view of Mt. Rushmore and directly behind the pillar that held the Oklahoma State flag.

There was one place that I had not expected to leave ashes. We ended up stopping our second night in the Ft. Abraham Lincoln State Park. The campground sits right next to Missouri river. In fact, it's situated right at the junction of where the Heart river joins the Missouri river. Michael was thrilled to be on the Missouri river. He went on and on about it. I think it was his favorite part of the trip. The next morning, as we packed up everything to head on towards Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Michael said "I think we're forgetting someone." He wanted to leave some of Chris at the river. It meant something to me that Michael wanted to be a part of this memorial. So, right there, where the Heart River meets the Missouri, we left some of Chris's ashes. The emphasis on We.