I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear. -- Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Ashes to Ashes
December 9, 2016Posted by on
I no longer know what prompted me to come up with this idea, but after years of having a vague notion of my post-death plans, a few months ago I came up with something concrete. Earlier this week, MamaMickTerry posed a question that led me to the thought again. Her question was … if you knew you only had a week left to live, what would you do with your week? I answered her question in a comment and part of my answer related to the idea I came up with for those post-death plans.
Before I go further, let me acknowledge that there is an element to this discussion that is monumentally inconsistent with my overall view on death. You see, death means it’s over. There is nothing else. No heaven. No hell. No after-life. No reincarnation (although I always thought I’d like to come back as a spoon — think about it). When we die we return to dust. So, on some level, what happens to my remains really doesn’t matter. I’m dead. I’m gone. There is nothing left of me and who I was. Why does it matter what happens with those remains? (and just so you know, here’s where I almost started crying as I wrote this … probably because of the crappy week and that I’m almost knee deep in my third beer)
I think it matters because it is the one and last thing in which I can exercise some type of control. It is the last message that I can send about who I was, who I wanted to be, and what mattered to me.
In my hazy memory, for some reason I came up with this idea when my father-in-law passed away in the Spring of this year. As his body was lowered into the ground, I thought about what I would want to happen and I came up with this.
I have always thought I would want my ashes spread somewhere. Along the coast, in the mountains. Somewhere of natural beauty that represented the world in which I wish I had spent more time and where I wanted to be.
My idea … three different places. Three different ash spreaders. One would be my wife, who regardless of the issues that have arisen along the course of our marriage, is my wife. And the mother of my children. She has played a huge role in who I am today. We had two children together and have tried our best to figure out how to make this whole thing make sense. I thought she could scatter a portion of my ashes somewhere along the American River which makes its way through Sacramento where I have lived since I was one year old.
It is a place that has been this odd little backbone of certain aspects of my life. As a child, I occasionally rode along a pave bike trail along the river with my father and the rest of my family. As a young adult, that bike trail provided me with more bicycling opportunities. That river is the mighty beast that threatens my hometown and the home I grew up in should rains ever fall so greatly that the levees are breached. And as I’ve grown older, I have been drawn back to the river as a place of peace. And quiet. A place where I can enjoy the beauty of the natural world while pondering the mysteries of my life. A ribbon of nature that winds its way through the ever expanding urban jungle of Sacramento. There is something to the American River’s path through Sacramento. Spread some of me along its banks. And think about the fact that I loved her, no matter the issues or the difficulties. She was my wife, the mother of my children, and … well, that’s just kind of huge in the grand scheme of my life and of things.
The second spreaders would be my sons. The two beings who utterly and completely changed my world with their entries into the world. No matter my frustrations with them as they become the young adults they are, I’ve never stopped loving them. I’ve never stopped hoping and dreaming of who they will become. And I simply cannot deny the impact they have had on my life and how those hopes and dreams have defined and impacted so much of what I’ve done over the years.
And so, I would ask that they take a portion of my ashes to some area in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada. Maybe to Silver Lake. Maybe along some mountain trail. Maybe another lake. Convict Lake. Or maybe to Bridgeport, California, where my first novel was based. And spread those ashes and think about how much I loved them. How they became, upon their first breaths, the only way that I could leave a legacy behind. That they represented the mark I could leave on the world. And that I loved them and that I hoped they would spread their own love in the part of the world they chose to occupy. And the lake they chose, the mountain trail, the location would represent how much I enjoyed that part of the world as well. Family vacations at Silver Lake, hikes here and there, Bridgeport. Markleeville. So many places and locations and areas of breathtaking beauty and solitude.
Which brings me to the third part of this idea. My friends. The circle of people who have been, in some respects, my biggest supporters. The ones who have filled the holes that exist in my life. The ones who have listened to me as I have expressed the sadness I feel about my life. The ones who have shared laughs with me. Stories of woe and of joy. The friends who have formed the backbone of my existence. In Weed Therapy I dedicated the story to my “circle.” And that is what this is about. My circle. Those friends who have always been there for me.
I would like to have two of those friends take the third, and final, portion of my ashes to a place along the coast. Maybe Fort Bragg, California, or somewhere along the Oregon Coast, and spread my ashes where the waves crash, the breeze is brisk, the air is crisp, and the beauty is beyond words. And they would do so on behalf of those friends who have meant so much to me as I’ve traveled through life.
Here is where this idea breaks down. Those two friends, know of each other, but have never met each other, as with most of the friends I have in this circle. I feel like I should ask them about this. That they are okay with the idea before I commit it to paper. Of joining together to do this thing. But I’m afraid to do so.
I’m a superstitious person. I believe that the way in which I’m sitting on the sofa could have an impact on the outcome of a Giants baseball game I am watching. I believe that if I bet on the Steelers to win the Super Bowl, they will most definitely lose. I am a superstitious person. And if I were to tell these people of my idea, it would come to pass far earlier than I hope it to be.
I’m 52. I’d like to think the spreading of my ashes won’t be an issue for another 20 or 30 years. But if I reach out to those two friends and say, “This is my idea. Are you okay with it?” I have no doubt they will say, “of course,” because it’s not something they need to worry about because I’m not going anywhere and it’s so far into the future. The only thing is that if we have this conversation … it will happen next week.
I remain quiet with this idea, but I know now that is what I want to have happen. I can think of nothing better than to have my remains spread in those locations by the people who have meant the most to me. By the people who I have loved and who have loved me. Even if it really doesn’t matter. Because I am dead. I am gone. It still matters. Even if only a little bit. It matters.