Scattered— Part 2

The two brothers stand at the stern of the boat and hold the plastic bag containing what is left of their parents.  None of us has prepared any sage words to say.  We have no prayer at the ready.  We are silent, thinking our own thoughts.  The two men open the mouth of the bag and turn it over toward the sea.  The ashes fly out and down into the water.  Some fly onto the lip of the deck.  The brothers’ arms reach out as far as they can and scatter their parents’ ashes together.  I do feel sad.  And, honestly, a little spooked.  This is a strange thing to be doing.  I come from a family of burial people, not cremation people, and even though I plan to be cremated myself, this is completely unfamiliar.  I had never actually seen cremains before the day we mixed the ashes, and seeing them for the second time is no easier or less strange to me.  Although this is just, somehow it does not seem fair, this scattering.  Even though it is what people do.  I look at my family.  My husband and his brother do not meet each others’ gaze.  My children don’t say anything; they watch the ashes flow from the bag with sad eyes and when it is over, they turned their heads.  It is done.

View of the Sea From the Black Pearl

We have also brought Uncle Roger along.  His ashes have been gathering dust since early summer when the crematorium in Florida insisted that no arrangements had been made for him.  He was my mother-in-law’s uncle, and she died while completing the execution of his estate, and before we were notified about his cremains.   He arrived in a brown paper-wrapped metal box during the month of June.  He spent some time in our front hall while we considered scattering him in the garden, but that just didn’t seem right.  We moved him next door to a shelf while we thought about what to do with him.  We had no idea where or if his wife was buried.  Maybe she had been cremated, too.  Then we decided he should be scattered with all that was left of his own family.  So after crumpling up the big plastic bag, my husband opens another smaller one.  He scatters Uncle Roger near where he and his brother had scattered their parents.  My husband is wearing dark sunglasses, so I cannot see his face, but I think this must be hard, too, and he’s doing it alone.  I don’t offer to help, and neither does anyone else.  It is done in only a moment.  His shoulders seem to sag as he crumples that bag, too, then turns to our captain.

Richard stands in the doorway leading to the galley, his slight frame back-lit by the setting sun.  His kind face looks to us, waiting for a signal to know we are finished.  He pivots when he sees we have completed our task, and I wonder what he thinks of us, this tiny family, not visibly grieving, but somber and quiet.  He shifts the boat back into gear and turns it toward the shore, taking us home.

On Sunday morning, I awaken from a long, hard sleep.  Before I know it, I am running along Pebble Beach.  The anxiety from the previous day has slipped away during the night and I am happy.  I feel a lightness in my heart and a sense of relief at having helped honor and complete the wishes of my husband’s parents.  I had not been aware of the weight of the task until it was completed.  One parent has been gone for three years, the other for four months.  There is a gap where they used to be in our lives and in the world, but a sweet space is filled in our hearts where they will remain forever.  This is life.  I run and run, and I watch those perfect waves curl and break onto the sand.  I wonder if any of their ashes have been carried in by these waves and come to rest on this rocky shore Ted and Charlotte loved so much.  I hope so.  And I hope Uncle Roger found his way, too.

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4 Comments on “Scattered— Part 2”

  1. Sharon Says:

    So poignant.

  2. Craig Says:

    You captured that day so honestly. I feel more at peace with a sense of closure, than I did before I had read it. Thank you again. We are so glad it is done.

  3. Pat Earle Says:

    Sometimes real grieving is quiet and private—I hope you and Craig finds as much peace as the lovely morning your described..

  4. lise Says:

    Wow…so many emotions but finally relief at a task well done. I intend to be cremeated and scattered at 2nd beach…and I found it interesting to note your feeling about that reality of the task…..I too am from a line of burriers


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