Friday, January 21, 2011

Ashes, Ashes

All week long I have had the little nursery rhyme "Ring around the rosie" stuck in my head.
Only one line though: "Ashes, ashes, we all fall down."
Mostly just the first two words.

Roger's ashes took over a week to get back.
So after my father's funeral, when the car was being unloaded, I never expected one of my dad's friends to hand me my dad.
My dad in a box.

"Whoa, he is ready already?"
"Yep, the funeral home did it yesterday on site."

My dad wanted to be spread over the property where they lived.
Where he died.
I was thinking we would all come back and do that part.
But my dad's wife wanted to do it on that day.
While we were altogether.
Like right away.
"Oh, okay."

But first, we needed to set aside some of the ashes for my sister and my dad's stepdaughter to keep.
So as we were carrying my dad outside in the freezing cold, I asked someone to grab a spoon.
A plastic spoon.
And ziplocs.
I was about to scoop my father up with a spoon.
And distribute him into snack size bags.

My dad's wife asked if the three of us would share this task of spreading the ashes.
Now, in the movies, it seems so fantastic and simple and holy.
In the movies, people open the container and the ashes just simply fly away in the wind.
But I knew that was false.
I knew that even though the wind was abundant and very, very cold that my father would just not take to the wind.
I knew that if I tried that he would just fall in one huge clump on the ground.
One giant pile of grey ashes on the white snow.

I asked the other two who wanted to start.
I was still holding the plastic spoon.
My sister said I could start.
So the first place I sprinkled was his place of death.
It seemed appropriate.
A few spoonfuls there.
Interestingly enough the ashes sank into the snow.
As we walked, a path of ashes followed us.

Scoop and drop. Scoop and drop. Scoop and drop.
"Does anyone else want to do this?"
"No, you are good at it. You can keep doing it."
Great.  Let me add that to my resume.
"Other Skills: spreading human ash remains with a spoon."

We continued along the path to my dad's garden.
Then, in what can only happen to me, the wind shifted.
My dad flew into my face.
All over my jacket.
All over my scarf.
And I noticed later, he made it onto my jeans.
I tried to cough and not inhale but I am pretty sure I inhaled my father.
I immediately thought of this.
Trying not to laugh was hard.
I could almost hear my dad laughing.

Spreading the ashes of a whole human takes what seems like a long time when it is done with a spoon.
And being me, I tried to find a pattern.
So as we entered his long gone garden from this past summer I went row by row.
Scoop here.  Scoop there.  A little here. A little more there.
Up and down the rows until I was out of ashes.

I took the white plastic spoon and dropped it into the box.
Closed the lid and placed it into my father's lookout over his hill.
The place he probably spent his last morning alive and many other days beforehand.

My coat and scarf went to the dry cleaner's this week.
I feel like my dad will always be a part of me.
Hell, I inhaled him.
But I could not keep my winter coat with his ashes.
It will probably be a long time where I do not think of my dad when I wear my coat or my scarf or those jeans.
And thankfully living in Florida, I do not have to wear those things often.
Except the jeans.
One of my favorite pairs.

When I die, just dump me into the ocean.
No spoon necessary.


Brooke Simmons said...

Oh, this made me chuckle...I'm so sorry you had to experience that.

Janine (txmomx6) said...

Star, This is the post where I wrote about what we did with Jim's ashes .... or actually, half of his ashes. You can kind of get the humor when you read it, but it really was a lot more hysterical than it sounds. Your post reminded me of it. Many of us ended up with Jim all over us. The dang wind ....

Boo said...

I grinned through your description of what happened ... because I could see myself doing the same. Widow humour is a wonderful thing ... to widows, of course the untouched think we are taking dark humour a step too far, but what do they know?

One thing occurred to me. You are seen as a "leader/mentor/wise" in your family because you behave that way. It came to me very clearly reading this post. And I wondered if you knew that or if anyone ever told you that. You deserve to know <3

Please be kind to yourself over the coming months. You have a lot of pain ... more than anyone should ever have to endure, in a short space of time, too much loss. Be patient and kind to YOU x

Michele Neff Hernandez said...

Dear Star,

I check in on you know and then and was so sad to discover that you are walking the grief path again after losing you dad. As I read this post it occured to me how often people in our lives think we are "experts" in all things death after losing a spouse. Of course you can spread all the ashes, you are good at it! At this I laughed out loud. Definitely add that to your resume.

I hope that you are lifted up by love in the months ahead. I hope that the tools that you have acquired through the loss of your love, actually do help you a little in the loss of your father. I hope that you are able to be gentle with yourself as this new loss settles into your bones. And I hope that every time you wear your favorite jeans you remember something amazing about your dad.

Thinking of you from afar.

Mars Girl said...

Awesome entry.

John said...

Thanks for sharing this story - touching, poignant, beautiful.