Monday, April 8, 2013


Dave fishing in Yellowstone

When I spread Dave's ashes it will be the third time I've spread someone's ashes. The first time, my dad and I emptied a paper bag of what used to be my mother's body into a stream she loved. The second time I numbly shook a box of my father's remains around the base of one of the trees he'd planted in his garden.

This time around will be the hardest. I dread releasing Dave's ashes and yet I want to have it over with. I want his ashes to be a part of nature and not trapped in this box that has me somehow trapped as well. I feel trapped under the weight of it. The weight of the decision.

Ocean? River? Woods? What would he want? I suppose the only thing he'd want would be for me to make it easiest on me. He wouldn't want me worrying and debating over what to do or how to do it.

But I keep thinking of other people who might want to be there and how to accommodate them when all I can picture is being alone when I finally do it. The idea of carrying my own weight of sadness is almost unbearable. Adding the weight of others' feels impossible. It's the selfish truth of it all.

I'm a little annoyed with Dave, to be honest. I asked him several times where he'd want to be scattered after he died and he wouldn't answer me. I believe he was afraid to even talk about it, much less plan for it. He preferred to avoid talking about things he didn't want to think about. I made sure he knew where I'd want to be scattered. I wish he'd told me too. On the other hand, maybe making the decision myself was yet another way he is teaching me to trust myself.

Now, I decide. And if I pick somewhere I love, will it forever be tinged with sadness or will it be a special place I'll feel comforted in? Do I scatter them where we were married, in Mt. Rainier State Park? Do I dump them in a river he liked to fish from? Do I scatter them in the surf (which somehow comforts me the most, maybe because the ocean itself has always comforted me)?

Do I continue to cling to them and avoid the decision indefinitely? This one question feels like the easiest to answer. I don't want to carry that weight around forever and I want his remains to be a part of nature. It's just the decision in the way.

Make the decision and let go of that particular worry, a part of me says, while another part of me is paralyzed. 

The two year anniversary of his death is coming up and I feel as though that would be as good a time as any to finally do this, but planning it seems beyond me. As I have all along, I will have to surrender to this process and wait for the day when it becomes clear what I should do. Forcing it has never worked. I will one day be sure, but until then I don't have to do anything I don't want to do.

But those ashes are heavy on my heart and mind.


  1. I've rediscovered anxiety in widowhood. I had it, I found him, it went away, now it's back. So many decisions to make on my own- so many that are one time, no backsies kinds of things. And yet, when I calm myself, remind myself of his confidence in my abilities, the right choices come to me. So true what you said, surrender to where we are and we'll see where to go, what to do.

  2. Letting go is hard. You feel like abandoning the person who we dearly loved. I dread the day is all I have left is pictures and memories. Slowly I'm removing material things for I can't keep it all, and very difficult to remove. I find if I'm not ready then wait for a later time. A process we all go through at some point in time. Grace be with you..

  3. I got no answer either when we talked about end of life issues. I'm 3+ years out, have scattered them in several favorite locations, lakes and ocean, but the majority sit in a pot I made, on his dresser. I'm getting closer to releasing them all this summer. As anon above said, letting go is hard, so very hard. You'll know when it is the right time and the right place. My place involves waters we loved to sail in, and I find comfort in knowing he will still be a part of those waters. Do what feels best for you, whatever you decide is right.

  4. You'll know when/where it's right. I scattered my partner's ashes on what would have been his birthday, about a year after he died. (Prior to that, they were just sitting in a box on the shelf.) I chartered a sail boat, invited some friends and our Hospice nurse. Our 4 y.o. son scattered the ashes in the wake of the boat and we sang "Happy Birthday." It was oddly liberating, sad, and uplifting all at the same time. I have kept a much smaller box so when our son is older, he can decide what he'd like to do. Anything you decide will be okay.

    Take care.

  5. I too have my Marty's ashes up on the fireplace mantle. That wasn't my plan. I was going to assemble our three adult children and their families (2 of them live out of state) and gather on his friends sailboat that he used to sail on and, together, we would distribute them; but thinking of just the ride to get there makes my stomach turn.....let alone being on the boat and all that goes with it. Then his friends and brothers and our kids built us a deck in the backyard which was Marty's project dream, but he died unexpectedly before spring came - his family and friends honored him by completing it - I was going to distribute the ashes under the deck before they put on the top wood with whoever was here, but my one child out of state really wanted to be a part of it and he wouldn't be here till the top was just hasn't been as easy as I would've liked. Was going to take him on a cruise that the kids and I went on, but I have fears that customs would confiscate them or the luggage would get lost. So, for now he sits on the mantle. I do like the idea of doing something myself, in the quiet, in the peace, something that fits me and him. I know he is not in the ashes, they are a sad and at times very bad representation of him. Its just his "remains" in terms of the physical sense and he is so much more than that.
    My brother in law has been wonderful in coming up with words for me encouraging me to do what feels right when it feels right and this is what he told me, "My guess is that your heart isn’t as ready to move forward as your mind knows it has to…" to which my response was "at least today....". So there the ashes sit. Mart has led me thus far in how, what, when and where in so many other really hard things, I know this will be the same. So, for now, I draw comfort in knowing he is safe and sound where he belongs as this point - and oh so much more than "remains". Keep praying for wisdom and listen to your heart!

  6. I keep my husband's ashes in the box he came in. I have it under the pillow on the other side of the bed. The side that use to be mine, but I moved to his side. It bothers my kids. But they are just under the pillows nobody sees. I find it comforting, if I have a bad dream, I will jsut reach over and put my hand on the "box". someday I hope to just join our ashes and have my kids scatter them in our yard, our garden. But I'm not ready to give them up yet either. It's been 8 months. I don't think of them as often as I use to. But it's comforting to me to have them close by. I know it's odd, but I feel like a part of him is still with me.

  7. Thanks for sharing your experiences, your support and your reassurances everyone. As always it's so healing for me to share here.

  8. Just the other week I had my husband's ashes interred into a little garden at the church and had his family there, because I felt I had to. But I kept back some to scatter on my own at a special place on a special day, and some to keep, like one of the other ladies said. If somebody had described this to me a year ago I would have thought it really morbid. But now it feels right and a comfort.