Diary of a Widower

Daily entries by a husband, who stayed behind with his two sons

How to actually scatter ashes

THURSDAY, August 12 – Three pillows on top of each other, clumsily cross-legged (oops, I mean lotus position), the sheet around my waist, the urn in front of me, eyes closed, breathe slowly in and out, and go on counting . Awareness, where are you?

I try to meditate, but don’t know exactly why. Well, in any case, I want to shake off that vacation mood. And in my thoughts return to the woman we will commemorate today in a brief ceremony. I want to empty my head, and open it up to something sacred. Preferably something spiritual.  I can’t do it.

I pick up my laptop and begin to write. Effortlessly I find the worldly words appropriate to this day, and to Jennifer and her children.

16:30 – Near us, a bird was singing to its heart’s content and in the distance the clock in the bell tower struck once when it was all over. The ashes were scattered. And it was good.

Her mother prayed the Our Father. Her father talked about the future saying that we mustn’t dwell on the past, but learn from it.

I spoke of Jennifer as a mother, as a source of inspiration in that same past which we would continue to draw upon.  My emotions almost got the better of me and the boys started to giggle. There he goes again with his high-pitched voice.

I cited a poem by Baudelaire which Jennifer once emailed to a friend, referring to it as her motto:

            Always be drunk.

            That’s it!

            The great imperative!

            In order not to feel

            Time’s horrid fardel

            Bruise your shoulders,

            Grinding  you into the earth,

            Get drunk and stay that way.

            On what?

            On wine, poetry, virtue, whatever.

            But get drunk.

            And if you sometimes happen to wake up

            On the porches of a palace,

            In the green grass of a ditch,            

            In the dismal loneliness of your own room,

            Your drunkenness gone or disappearing,

            Ask the wind,

            The wave,

            The star,

            The bird,

            The clock,

            Ask everything that flees,

            Everything that groans

            Or rolls

            Or sings,

            Everything that speaks,

            Ask what time it is;

            And the wind,

            The wave,

            The star,

            The bird,

            The clock

            Will answer you:

            ‘Time to get drunk!’  

            Don’t be martyred slaves of Time,

            Get drunk!

            Stay drunk!

            On wine, virtue, poetry, whatever!

I opened the urn with my car keys, looked around me and signaled with my eyes that the time had come.

‘Wait a moment,’ said her mother, who beforehand had made it clear that under no circumstances would she hold the urn. Now she had changed her mind. Crying softly, she walked over to me and put both hands into the urn. One of the two brothers present quickly gave her a small plastic container, which he had brought along in case she wanted to save some of the ashes.

She cupped her hands and scooped up some of the ash. Then she rubbed the rest over her tearstained cheeks, pressing the palm of her hands to her face, as if for the last time she was holding her daughter, her baby, her Jennifer close to her.

I was touched.

She sought consolation next to her husband. I began to shake out the ashes. Then Sander took over. And Eamonn, very cautiously. Then the brothers. I did the last bit. It was nicely distributed and we hadn’t even needed the rake.

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3 thoughts on “How to actually scatter ashes

  1. you brought me to tears this morning

  2. Beautiful… bless you.

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