My Father’s Ashes

When my father’s ashes were ready, my sister called to tell me that they’d been separated into thirds, into plastic bags; one for her, one for my brother and one for me. I could pick them up at my convenience.

She later, (as far as I know) bought an urn to keep her third in.

My brother drank a toast to my father, from a beer stein (a family heirloom) before placing his share of the ashes into the stein.

Me, I didn’t really want them. Not only did I not want to keep any of them, I didn’t think his ashes should be divided. To me that meant separating him from himself. I think he’d had the issue of not being very well attuned to himself in life as it was. I didn’t want to further that in his death.

I didn’t even want to have him cremated. But I guess it was majority rule. My brother couldn’t bear to think of him buried deep in the ground. To me a burial seemed the right thing to do. But our dear father never told us what he wanted nor did he include his wishes on this in his will.

I think my sister agreed because 1) it was less expensive and 2) I think it may have been the quicker route.

If the latter wasn’t a factor, I’d be surprised since she was adamant about “getting the memorial service over with” on Friday rather than having it on Saturday. Saturday was my preference, because it would be more convenient for certain (working) people to attend. There were a few old friends of my father’s who in fact could not make it because of this. Not only was Friday a problem, we were dealing with very short notice.

In spite of this struggle, I did what was expected and picked up my third of the ashes. I put them in a fat piece of pottery/vase that I’d found at my father’s apartment.  And there they’ve been for close to six years.

The pottery had been my father’s. When my sister handed me the bag of ashes (on the right) I was a bit stunned. I don’t know what I was expecting. I guess I didn’t know. I’ve only seen ashes from cremation in the movies so I expected them to be lighter in weight. These are heavy and are more like gravel than ashes. And I think it’s cheap af that they are tied with a twist tie. Like WTF?

I’ve wanted to let them go…you know?  The way people take their loved ones’ ashes to a special place, a place that meant something to the deceased.

But I’ve been at a loss of sorts. I’m not sure where to take them.

I’ve had a couple of ideas, but I don’t know if either place would be where he’d want to be set free.

One place I’ve considered is his family’s plot where his parents (my grandparents) are, as well as two of his favorite aunts and other elder family members.

But I don’t know if he’d want that. Which is why he ended up cremated in the first place. None of us knew what he wanted.

The other idea I had is by a waterfall, not a natural water fall though. It’s part of the waterworks in the county I was raised in. And although it doesn’t sound all that pretty, it’s pretty nice there. He took me there when I was little to see the falls. I have a photo of myself that he took I’m standing on the wall there, holding my favorite doll and posing for the camera.

When I was older and looking through the old photo album, my father told me that my mother had a conniption when she saw that picture. I was 4 years old and if I’d fallen backward the possibility of that being the end of me, was pretty strong.

I feel so lonely right now as I write this.  When my father died, we were not on the best terms. Although he tried and wanted to pretend things were okay, I knew they weren’t. It wasn’t just a knowing either, there was a feeling in the atmosphere between the two of us. We both knew. That feeling was especially present in the evenings as we sat there together, just him and me as he ate his dinner. And that was usually in silence because he was so hard of hearing, it was difficult to communicate.

I wanted him to say something but then I didn’t want him to say something.  However my desire for some kind of resolution was strong and I would’ve welcomed any attempt from him.  One night as he sat there eating dinner and I sat with him at the table, he looked down at the table, sort of in a daydream state and said, “I thought there’d be reconciliation.”

Lyrics to “Say Something” by Christina Aguilera. I know it’s about losing a romantic love. But it can be applied to a child’s love to a parent as well.

I turned and looked at him in surprise and only a speck of hope and said, “With who?”

And he said, “Oh, no one. Never mind.”

I felt like I had a family once upon a time. A group of people to celebrate Christmas and birthdays with. People to exchange cards and gifts, eat meals and have drinks with. People who have known me for so long that we can sometimes finish each others’ sentences. A family that I laughed with and shared a similar sense of humor with.

And now, there’s no one. No blood relative, no one who knows me like they did. No one I know like I knew them.

My father wrote me an email at some point in the last year of his life; an email I cannot find now unfortunately.
He’d apparently knew the tension among his three adult children and had wished to get us all together for a talk. He’d said something along the lines of wanting to make sure his “three favorite people” get along and stay a family. I can’t remember whether he wrote this before or after he knew he was sick.  Either one would make sense as he was aware of the contention prior to his diagnosis.

I remember the sunken feeling I had as well as thinking, “Sorry Pop, that’s not very likely. That’s something you should’ve taken care of decades ago.”

It’s tragic and quite sad to me that he died on such a disastrous note.

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