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  • Writer's pictureElisa Juarez

What We Carry

July 9, 2023

This morning I was looking up restaurants for a celebratory lunch after my dad’s graveside memorial. In less than 2 weeks, our family will travel to New Hampshire to bury my father’s ashes in the small rural cemetery where my mom and her family are buried. Here on simple, sacred ground, history is laid out with headstones, wildflowers, and stone walls under a canopy of trees and sky.

My mother grew up there in Chester among winding, tree-lined roads, grassy hills, and gurgling brooks. That area holds precious memories and rich history. During my childhood, we would drive from South Dakota to New England every other summer to visit family and friends. I’ll never forget coming over the hill in Chester, leaning forward from the backseat to catch the first glimpse of the white house with attached barn that my grandfather built. As we pulled into the gravel driveway, the screen door would open and they would step out on the porch to greet us - Grammie in her apron and Grandpa in his worn trousers held up with suspenders. Returning to this little town brings back all the feels, smells, and nostalgia of what seems like another lifetime. Now we are going back to plant Dad’s ashes next to Mom’s and seal up a life that was well-loved.

I am, once again, the carrier of the ashes. This feels poignant and substantial. The box will stay close to me from the point of departure to destination, not in an overhead bin among other luggage. When I carried my mother’s ashes to New Hampshire, I was stopped by TSA going through security. They said they needed to inspect my bag, so I figured those ashes must have looked like cocaine. I explained with a slight smile, “That’s my mother in there. I am carrying her ashes.” There was no problem, the clerk was gracious and unconcerned about that box. Whew! I got mother safely onto the plane.

My dad’s joyful sense of humor is lingering in his ashes, making this task feel lighter. Although tears still fill my throat at times, the thought of him makes me smile. Any anxiety that creeps in about making this trip is quickly softened by the memory of his loving voice and hearty laugh. Our family’s sadness is cradled in the everlasting Arms of Love that reach out to hug each of us through him. He is still loving me from the inside out and turning my grief into gladness.

I see my dad’s life and love spilling out in mine. I am a carrier of his joyful faith which cannot be contained in bones or boxes. That faith also carries me, holds me, lifts me up. It is part of my dad’s legacy, this abiding faith in a God of absolute, unbounded Love. It changes everything, really, like my way of seeing and being in the world.

Perhaps we are what we carry, so a regular TSA-type inspection is a good idea. Open the bag, check the contents, remove anything that could cause harm. Unload that which is heavy and hard; choose lightness of being by carrying light, love, and laughter. This will spill over and uplift those around you, keeping your own load lighter. Rejoice, as my dad often said. Relax, rejoice, and rock your world!

Rise & Shine,


Elisa J. Juarez

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