It Is Particularly Requested by Katherine Rawson

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KEPKE—On Sunday, May 1, 1921. DR. JOHN KEPKE. Private interment Wednesday. It is particularly requested that no flowers be sent.

This is the newspaper notice written by the doctor’s only surviving son, my maternal grandfather. My mother had not yet been born.

It is particularly requested that no flowers be sent. It is particularly requested that we not be reminded of our loss.

One Christmas I send my mother a gift of scented soaps. The rich floral fragrance — rose, lilac — reminds me of sun-filled summer afternoons. When I visit my mother later, she tries to hand the gift back to me. The scent is so strong, she tells me. It’s probably artificial. I thought you would be interested to know. I don’t take the proffered soaps but just stare at my mother in silence. She looks mystified by my expression of hurt. I thought you would be interested to know, she repeats as I turn to leave the room.

It is particularly requested that no gifts of scented soaps be given. It is particularly requested that we not be asked to feel our feelings.

I love the irises that grow in front of my parents’ country house — an old wood-shingled house that once was part of a dairy farm. I love the delicate colors of the petals — pale lavender above pale, almost cream-colored, yellow. They remind me of the fragile musty pages of ancient books, of the smell of the old wooden boards that frame the house. Can I have some for my garden, I ask my mother. Take them all, she says. I don’t like them. Nothing else grows in front of the house but grass. The irises are all that remain of some previous owner’s garden, the only ones that persist. Take them all, my mother says. I don’t want them.

It is particularly requested that no flowers remain.

When I am widowed, my mother comes to visit. She takes me out to lunch, then we go to the mall to buy her a purse. On the way home, we notice trees with showy white blossoms. What are they, we wonder. The next day as I drive her to the train station I start spilling my feelings, that my dead husband’s family is pressuring me, I may lose my home, my head is filled with the fog of grief and I don’t know what to do. She stares silently ahead, the tears rolling down her cheeks, all the way to the station. A few days later she sends me a message. I looked up the tree, she writes. It’s catalpa. Isn’t that interesting?

It is particularly requested that no feelings be felt.

When I die, says my mother as she nears the end of her life almost 100 years after the death of Dr. John, just dump my ashes in the trash.

It is particularly requested that no ashes be kept. It is particularly requested that no honors be made.

When the time finally comes, it is early summer and my garden is bursting into bloom. Wood ashes make good fertilizer I know, but when I look it up, I learn that human ashes do not. They are too full of salt, it seems, but I figure a few couldn’t hurt. I sprinkle spoonfuls around the lavender and yellow irises I have planted by the side of the house, around the bright orange day lilies that grow behind them, and as I move to the bed where the daisies grow, I remember the time I was 12 years old and begging to get my ears pierced. That year, my mother put a set of colorful nesting boxes in my Easter basket. I opened them one by one until I reached the innermost box, and there I found, wrapped in white tissue paper, a tiny pair of daisy earrings.

Meet the Contributor

Katherine RawsonKatherine Rawson lives, writes, and gardens in a small town in Vermont in the company of blue jays, voles, woodchucks, and a variety of other creatures. Her work has appeared in Months to Years, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Drabble, and a few other places.

Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Tero Karppinen

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