I went with her to the funeral hall to pick up my dad’s ashes. It was such an odd thing because the ashes were in a cardboard box with my dad’s name on it. The box was warm. It had probably been sitting on a heater. But in my wild imagination it felt like he was alive as the ashes.
My dad hadn’t said what he wanted us to do with his ashes. My mom suggested putting them in the McKenzie River. She said my dad liked that river. I agreed and we drove to the river. We didn’t know it wasn’t going to be such a simple endeavor.
There was a bridge that went over the river. But there were a lot of joggers running over the bridge and we felt it would be awkward tossing the ashes over the bridge down to the water. Plus it was windy, and the ashes could’ve ended up on us and the passers-by.
We were flustered, until I found an area under the bridge that had a dirt path that went to the river. We walked the path to the river. I opened the box, took out the plastic bag. It was odd to see the ash in the bag. I was freaking out inside thinking this had once been my dad. I got some peace when I thought, “I guess this what we’re all like when we’re reduced to basic minerals.”
I poured my dad’s ashes into the river. But the river wasn’t high where we were, and the ashes went a foot underwater and stayed there. A bunch of bubbles started coming up from the ash. Again, my imagination thought, “Oh my God, he’s still alive.” My mom got uncomfortable and got a big stick for me to stir the ashes to get them to move. By this time, two ducks were heading towards me, thinking I had dropped food into the water. Once the ducks got a closer look, they quickly went the other way.
My mom and I didn’t say anything like a eulogy for my dad. We understood that he wasn’t the ashes. The water felt like a good place to let his remains go because it was like sending them back to nature where they came from. As we drove away, we laughed about what we had just gone through. It helped bring some relief from the grief we were feeling. If my dad was still around, he would have laughed at it too.
(PS – that picture is not from the river I was talking about. I used it because liked the feeling of the flow of nature.)