They say that once cremated, the average person is reduced down to about 7 pounds of ash. That's about what a newborn baby weighs. Creepy, huh? But it fits in nicely with the whole concept of the ongoing cycle of birth and death. Birth and death really do complement each other. Both are major transitions, from and into what we may never know. And that mystery that accompanies them both is inescapable. Where were we before we were born? What becomes of us after we die? Is it really just nothingness on either end? I tend to think so, but when you witness these moments in life, it's simply impossible to wrap your head around what that means. For me anyway. I suppose it would be more clear if I believed in god.
Dad's ashes came to us in a simple black box. The box is sitting behind a large photo of him in Amy's living room. I took 5 vials full to scatter at various locations. I apologize if you think this is inappropriate subject matter for a blog, but not really, because I don't think there is such a thing. Cremated ashes are not smooth and light, as I guess I thought they would be. It's a rather thick, dense ash, and yes, there are fragments of bone (I suppose) mixed in there too. It got a little messy when Amy was transferring Dad from the big box into my little vials, but we both agreed that was okay. We were all close in life, why not get even closer by getting your ashes under our fingernails (!). It's so macabre, if you want it to be. Or, it just is what it is.
Our first stop was Dallas, Texas. That's where Dad was born and bred, and we returned there for a memorial gathering with his family. Afterward, Amy, Dad's brother, and I, went out the cemetery where both of their parents are buried. Grandma died about 3 years ago, after a long struggle with Alzheimer's. Their father died when my Dad was only ten years old, so of course I never knew him. However, it was interesting to note that he died on October 9, 1952, which was the same day we happened to be scattering his oldest son's ashes on his grave, exactly 58 years later. Here's a photo of Dad at the site a few years ago.
Mr. G and I went to San Francisco for Christmas, and one of my priorities was to scatter some Dad ashes at a few key spots. San Francisco was his city, and we shared a lot of good times there. The Legion of Honor is a gem of a museum, at the far edge of the city, with a great view back at the Golden Gate Bridge. It's quiet, peaceful, and beautiful there, plus Dad visited and enjoyed the museum countless times on his own, with me, and with Amy. So we went to this little vista point where I'd taken some nice photos of Dad in the past, and we admired the bridge, and I scattered my first little vial of ashes in the moist dirt. I then realized there was a nice pile of raccoon poop right next to my sacred spot. Sorry, Dad!
The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park holds lots of fond memories for me, most of which were spent with Dad in my childhood. So I wanted to scatter some ashes there too. I don't know what the rules and regulations are about scattering human remains, but I felt a little self-conscious about it. I waited until no one was around, and scattered a bunch over the edge of the Rainbow Bridge. Most of them made it into the water, but I left a nice dusting along the edge of the bridge too (!). I also scattered some in a pond behind the gift shop which felt especially serene and peaceful. And a few more in a stream which leads down to a large pond in front of the main tea house. That man is all over the place in the Tea Garden, so now I love it even more!
I was in San Diego for New Years, and thought the beach along La Jolla Shores would be another lovely place for Dad to rest. I was conceived and born in San Diego, and the first 5 years of my life were spent there with both Mom & Dad. The beach is a wonderful place for reflection (especially at the beginning of a new year, or when one is troubled), with the immense ocean stretching out as far as the eye can see, and the relentless tides washing up and back in nature's great endless rhythm. I found a quiet end of the beach, and scattered some of Dad in the waves.
When I got in the car to drive home -- and I happened to be driving Dad's Subaru for a variety of uninteresting reasons -- the first song that came on was the Beatles' "Octopus's Garden."
I'd like to be under the sea
In an octopus' garden in the shade
He'd let us in, knows where we've been
In his octopus' garden in the shade
We would be warm below the storm
In our little hideaway beneath the waves
Resting our head on the sea bed
In an octopus' garden near a cave
We would shout and swim about
The coral that lies beneath the waves
Oh what joy for every girl and boy
Knowing they're happy and they're safe
We would be so happy you and me
No one there to tell us what to do
I'd like to be under the sea
In an octopus' garden with you.