KingMidget's Ramblings

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Ashes to Ashes


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.

 

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12 responses to “Ashes to Ashes

  1. MamaMickTerry December 10, 2016 at 5:10 am

    Absolutely beautiful writing. My heart tugged as you described each person(s) and where you would have them scatter your ashes. When I read your comments earlier in the week, I remember wondering how much you had been thinking about this and now I know.
    Calm? Yes, you still have a sense of calmness about you – like the ribbon of river you described. It may not feel like it on the inside, but it certainly flowed over to me as such.
    I’m honored that you tagged me at the beginning of this post – you certainly have me pondering and thinking again, too.
    Beautiful.

    • kingmidget December 10, 2016 at 7:47 am

      Thank you for your kind words. Your question this week is just the type of question I could wrap myself into knots about. 😉

      As for calmness … the reality is that it is a state of being that I aspire to. Still working on it. If you saw me at the dinner table last night, you would know that i still have much work to do to get there. 😉

      Thank you for reading and commenting on this post and the others.

  2. Kevin Brennan December 10, 2016 at 8:14 am

    Really poignant post. I’m like you — a total atheist — so I’m not concerned about an afterlife per se. But symbolism means something, and being thoughtful about these things is part of who we are. Also like you, I have a few spots where my ashes would be quite happy.

    I’m intrigued by this idea I’ve heard about, where your remains are buried under a tree seedling and provide nutrients for it. You feed a tree, and trees are tops in my book! I’ll be looking into that possibility …

    • kingmidget December 10, 2016 at 4:42 pm

      Thank you. A corollary to your idea is that the Jewish tradition is to bury a baby boy’s foreskin in the garden. As a result, there is a house on Padova Court in Sacramento with my first born’s foreskin buried under one of the rose bushes. Can’t say for sure whether that particular rose grew better than the others. 😉

      You’re right about the symbolism. I think that’s why this matters to me even if I’m dead and gone.

  3. hirundine608 December 10, 2016 at 9:14 am

    You cannot destroy energy. Energy does not “die”. It is changed into something else. Maybe a spoon? Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. … Karma. We are reborn according to karma. Maybe not tomorrow or next week? It would be careless to make the assumption that any rebirth will be here on Earth. Energy does not die. Our eyes only see a tiny proportion of available light waves. The body dies. The energy field that is you carries on. Known as soul. It rejoins all the other energy. Until we are called forth to learn the next set of lessons. Beliefs? For myself, beliefs do not enter into the equation. Have you ever been to Antarctica? I doubt it? I haven’t but I believe it to exist. Cheers Jamie.

  4. S.K. Nicholls December 10, 2016 at 5:43 pm

    I’ve told you how I feel about energy. I’m a strong believer in energy forces and spiritual reincarnation…not necessarily here, as we know here to be, but somewhere. I’d hesitate to volunteer to spread your ashes. With the brain farts and hectic chaos I’ve been dealing with lately I’d likely stir you into a margarita without much thought.

  5. Philip Walter December 11, 2016 at 8:48 pm

    My father died and was cremated. I’d already left England to move to New Zealand and I had a brother in Australia too.A couple years after my mother comes to visit and brings a portion of ashes with her. in a small plastic container, nothing fancy. Shocked and horrored I was because what would I possibly want tham for, and what would I do with them that was fitting and conveyed enough mana and respect.

    Anyway after much thought I ended up taking the container to the beach with a grand plan to spread or hare the ashes with nature. Never happened and the container got put into a draw and 4 or 5 times a year you’d open the draw and there it was, accusing and scolding. Still nothing happened.

    Then MrsPhil mentioned to me one day that her mother had known about the container of ashes in the draw for a while and would often chat to it, which was the motivation I needed to take action.

    So one calm day I took the container, with the ashes, to the beach, a lovely day, light on shore breeze tide was out, sun was shining, and I waded out into the ocean.

    A few dozen yards out I mumbled some words, said my goodbye and cast the ashes before me.

    Remember I said on shore breeze,

    I found myself coated in find dust, it was everywhere, including in my mouth, eyes, hair, ears, it wasn’t a lot in the container but boy it felt like a sand storm.

    I’m sure my dad would have laughed.

    • kingmidget December 12, 2016 at 6:39 am

      That’s a great story. Love the part about your mother-in-law talking to your father’s ashes. Far too many times people don’t know what to do once a loved one passes away. That’s one of the reasons I want to do this — with specific instructions for each. So, they don’t have to wonder.

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