“My mother’s dying wish was to be buried next to her parents in Waukegan, Illinois,” Richard says, gazing down on his weather-worn walking stick, now a cane due to failing health.
“No one else wanted to do that for her,” Richard explained. “They cremated her. I found her ashen remains thrown on a workbench at my brother’s house in Enterprise, Alabama.”
“No. I’m taking her home,” Richard says, determined, a stubborn tone to his voice.
He did what he knew had to be done. Securing paperwork and a proper urn from the closest funeral home, he drove her remains across state lines. Alabama to Illinois.
Arriving in his Mother’s small hometown just north of Chicago, he settled in at his Aunt Karen’s house. Together Richard and Karen laid his mom to rest, only the two of them side by side that Friday afternoon before the Sunday Memorial Day Service. According to Richard, it was the extended family arriving, filling the house with disrespectful infighting and unquenched family greed that made it so tricky staying there.
Before the funeral service that Sunday, Richard withdrew to Lyons Woods. He sought to clear his head and meditate in the gorgeous tree-dense park of spidering walking trails in the center of town. Wandering through sun and shadow, sifting through this turning point in his life and reflecting on what it meant to be in Waukegan, fulfilling his mom’s dying wish. Laying her to rest next to her parents.
He went off-trail and found himself at the edge of the park and noticed a tree sucker root growing up and out of the side of a tree. Richard thought, “If I remove it, this will help save the tree, and I’ll have a walking stick.” So he walked back to his Aunt’s house, grabbed a bow saw off the garage wall, and went back out and cut the root off.
Trusting in the perfection of nature’s creation, Richard stepped away with more than a stick that summer day 13 years ago. He discovered and fashioned a wooden companion to prop up his ailing body and spirits, helping him during the most bitter times and seeing him through the darkest of places a person can ever walk.
“It’s more than just a walking stick or cane, it’s like my mom and her hometown are here with me.”