Home » Death » SPENDING EARTH DAY WITH CRAIG

SPENDING EARTH DAY WITH CRAIG

2014-04-22 15.41.58I  walked into the crematorium office yesterday to claim his remains. It was a surreal moment. His once vibrant, intact body was now reduced to compacted ash inside the brown, plastic box that rested on the bare wooden desk in front of me. I felt a throbbing in my temples. I reminded myself to breathe, as I scribbled my name on the paper in front of me so he could be released to my custody.

I picked up the container; he was heavier than I thought. I placed him carefully on the passenger’s seat, resisting the urge to buckle him in and drove home slowly, my right hand instinctually resting on top of the box, like one does with a child, thinking that you can somehow protect them from harm that way.

I carried him into the house, locked my front door, and pulled the curtains open as a light rain began to fall. Sitting in the chair I gripped tightly to what was left of him, staring in disbelief at his picture on the wall. Then I reluctantly placed the box on top of the bed where he once slept. A rogue wave struck and knocked me to the ground. I was swept away by the brutal tsunami of despair. I began to sob. He had trusted me to care for him, and I felt I had failed, feeling if I had done my job properly, he wouldn’t be in this box.

He had prepared in the Buddhist tradition for the eventuality of death, and I had been assured by many wisdom teachers that he had “passed well.”  For that, I truly rejoice. But comfort eludes me right now because I am contracted around my own sorrow; I miss him. This is called grief. It comes with the territory when you love people and then they leave you.

Two dear friends came over this afternoon, and we hiked together in our Community Redwood Forest. We took a glass container that held a portion of his ashes, placing some of them inside dead stumps that still miraculously bore life, some under moist green ferns at the base of towering old-growth trees, and the rest around moss-covered rocks. It was Earth Day, a perfect time to carry out his final wishes: to scatter his ashes in the forest.

Walking under the canopy of these majestic trees with the sun filtering through their lacy boughs, inhaling the musty odor of the fertile earth, I could feel the weight on my chest release. Here, as one of my friends said, was the forest… “foresting.” An endless, ongoing dance of death and coming back into life—over and over again. I closed my eyes as we held hands and whispered our prayers of God Speed. I felt my mind relax and open. I smiled as we made our way back down the trail, imagining he might be thinking… This is good.

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3 thoughts on “SPENDING EARTH DAY WITH CRAIG

  1. Thank you for sharing your journey with and after Craig’s passing. Honoring him this way is wonderful and I am glad you were so close to him, our dear Vajra brother. Best to you.

  2. This reminds me that when our hearts are open to love they are also open to sorrow. Sweet sorrow. When the connection runs deep so goes the sorrow. Such is the human potential to feel. Would we want it any other way?

  3. I only know you through the immense reach-out you offered through Caring Bridge. Now you offer more to this disjointed community of Craig – your very personal blog. I have stayed my sadness and avoided looking through my treasure trove of very old letters trying to find him from decades ago. Maybe there isn’t a letter – I remember writing several to him. It doesn’t really matter yet – it is an idle sidelight thought in this inquiry to my past. Your words soften this sudden re-entry and exit of Craig from my life. Why does it matter after all this time? I am not Buddhist – but Unitarian Universalists come close in our faith and connection to Nature. I have inhaled my deep patch of Oregon Coast Range forest through this very short, very intense novella. When I read your words I am offered a strange liberating jubilation that Craig found such loving community. He was a Seeker – it seems he remained just slightly twisted enough to be a tad aloof, ever-bemused and quintessentially scientific in his self-awareness. I delight in knowing these elements survived the years since we last sat together. You are answering the questions I have had since this butterfly of a story eclosed and died. Please accept my heartfelt thanks – I offer a place for you and your friends when your grief subsides and you venture North. Please know your words have found a place in my soul.

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