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Journey of Ashes – Beginning

Here I am at the beginning of this trip, a trip which will include disposing of my mother’s ashes. It is a pilgrimage of sorts, which is really just a subset of this larger pilgrimage in my life, to fully find and become my self, my true self, without overlay of past or future. It may seem to some like a daunting task. If I’m existing more in the present, then it seems as if the concept of ‘daunting’ really doesn’t exist. The concept of daunting is based on limitations learned in the past and extrapolated, usually accompanied with a tinge of fear, into the future. The phrase, “a long row to hoe,” can express a daunting feeling. That dauntingness doesn’t really exist if we are simply hoeing. When finishing a task becomes primary to performing a task, then anxiety has space to arise, along with doubts of our own capacity. So is this task of self-discovery actually ’daunting?’ I guess it really matters where I’m residing at the moment. As I type, it doesn’t feel that way, but that may change with my next breath………. Still good.

The task at hand for me at the moment is dealing with my mother’s ashes. She’s been dead 11 years and 2 days and by all reasonable accounts it’s time to let her go. I’m just now beginning the first leg of this journey – flying to Chicago where she spent the greater part of her life. Where it feels fitting to release (now there’s a better word) some of her ashes. She loved to swim and to lie in the sun so I’m planning to bring some of her ashes to Lake Michigan, either at Foster Ave. beach to where in her last few years I helped her to learn to navigate easily and which then became her final splashing and sunning grounds, or Montrose Ave. beach where she would take my brother and I in our early and pre-teen years on the weekends. I want her to be free, to have part of her spirit that isn’t buried in the ground somewhere, but that is free to move about, drift, flow, wave and become part of the active ecosystem again.

It’s funny how I write about her ashes as if they contain her spirit. It’s almost like a fairy tale that we come to believe in the repeated telling, the old witch putting Hansel and Gretyl in the kettle, Rapunzel growing her hair to reach down to the to ground of the tower which keeps her from her true love. Her ashes don’t contain her spirit. They are just ashes. In fact, ashes are hardly really ashes, but more accurately bone chip fragments plus the occasional dental work remnant. So releasing her ashes is not necessarily for her benefit, to release her from purgatory or some other limbo land, but it’s really an act performed by people to help them in their moving on after the passing of their loved one.

Lucy and Joey wedding photoAt the moment now, I’m in Iron Mountain, MI, a town of about 15 thousand people carved out of the indigenous pine forests. It is here that my mom met, fell in love with and married Joe DeRidder back around 1940. Her son Jeff from that marriage still loves (I love when I make that typo) lives here. I’m staying with he and his wife Barb and they are constantly laughing, laughing more than any couple I have ever met. They are truly a joy to be around. Last night over desert at the frozen custard shop, I told Jeff of my plan to bring some of her ashes to France to lie there with Joe, he was visibly touched and reached out and grasped and held the back of my wrist, in a gesture of appreciation and connection. How sweet. Afterwards, we came home and went through some old pictures. We found a nice one of Lucy and Joe together in a wedding picture. It’s an old one, perhaps an original, trimmed with a pinking shears. Barb and I had suggested making a copy to bring with but Jeff, with his selfless sense and a heart always steering towards what’s right and good insisted that the original go with on the trip and be left there at the cemetery.

So not only is this a healing trip for me, but there also is something sweet happening with and for my brother here as well. For him, I imagine there must be some sense of completion, having his mother and father resting together again, finally. Something that seems strange to me is that neither Jeff nor our mother ever went to the gravesite in France. I’ll ask Jeff today why that might be. I’m curious.

Anyway, that’s all I have time for as I’m sitting in my car outside the Motel 8 where they have Wi-Fi and I want to get back to Jeff and Barb’s for sunset. Such a sweet day with them today. Joy and ease.


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