A Resting Place for Poppy

My dad is a renaissance man. He has so many talents. Actor, athlete, gardener, woodworker. When he crafts something from wood he uses hand tools. He prefers using glue over screws or nails because, as he once told me, the finished project looks more refined. A few years ago he made me a small table for meditation, where lately I sit every morning and light a candle for my daughter. Most recently, he built Poppy’s urn.

Eli and I chose to have Poppy cremated. Sorting through a long list of funeral homes we received from the hospital social worker, we determined our number one priority was location. We needed the funeral home to be somewhere we’d never go again. We had 3 days to make the arrangements, as Poppy’s autopsy would be complete within the week. We called 2 funeral homes that were well outside of town. I called one. Eli called the other. It was a numbing experience, signing and emailing forms which authorized the release of her body from the hospital to the funeral home.

We picked up her ashes the week of Thanksgiving. The woman I’d spoken with throughout the process met us when we arrived. She carried a green gift bag filled with tissue paper. Inside was a small, plastic white box with a tiny pink bow glued on top. There was a label on the side with Poppy’s full name and date of death, October 26, 2015. We drove home quietly, the bag resting in my lap.

I can’t remember when it came to me, but I knew if I asked him, my dad would build Poppy an urn. We couldn’t possibly keep her in a plastic box. We had no special perimeters, only that it be worthy of her remains. My dad graciously accepted our request.

I saw my parents just after Christmas on the east coast. We spent the holiday in Tennessee with Eli’s sister, her husband and our 2 nephews. We hung a little stocking for Poppy over the fireplace and a “Poppy’s First Christmas” ornament on the tree. My parents drove up from Georgia to visit with us at an Airbnb we rented for a few days afterward.

One evening while sitting together in the kitchen, my dad brought a package to the table. At first I thought it was a Christmas present. Then I gasped when I realized it was Poppy’s urn. I had no idea that he’d finished it. I braced myself. Before he showed it to us, he read aloud a note he’d written on a small piece of paper.

These are his handwritten words:

My father cried as he read to us. We all cried, my mother, Eli and me. And then he revealed the urn.

It was breathtaking. Transcendent. More beautiful than anything my heart could have imagined. A true testament to my father’s capacity for love. Poppy’s ashes fit perfectly inside the ceramic flower pot. The pot tucks perfectly into the white box. She is protected there.

Grieving Poppy’s loss has been hard on my entire family. None of us were prepared for this outcome. But my dad continues to show up. No matter my mood. He listens. He shares my struggle as best he can. He keeps listening, and learning and loving. Like the urn he built for his granddaughter, he is holding me up no matter how hard things get. Thank you daddy. I love you so much.

Like what you read? Give Katie Duke a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.