Sunday, June 29, 2014

How to Grieve


Hunt for beach glass with a friend and let her give you all that she finds including the first piece of PINK you've ever seen.
Let her coax you into long evening walks.
Sit on the patio with your friend and drink wine.
Pet her dog.

When friends call and ask if you'd like company, say yes. Let them bring you cupcakes, chocolate, vegetables, wine, the fixings for chili or soup, concoctions they've made, and books. Let them talk to you, take you to lunch, or to taste wine. Let them nap while you also nap. Let them cook for you or with you or you cook for them. Let them run errands with you. Watch movies that they recommend. Let them talk about love. Let them talk about grief. Or anything at all. Let them look you in the eyes when you're afraid your eyes might fill with tears and flood everything. Love them for not being afraid. 

Dan's ashes arrived on Friday afternoon. Priority mail. A package that required a signature. A package that bore a label that said "Cremated Remains." The mail carrier held the box against her body while she  handed me the clipboard so I could sign. When she handed me the box, our eyes met. I think she knew what she was handing me. I carried the box upstairs, nearly cancelled my lunch date, but it was too late. The door bell rang and it was time to go. I didn't talk about the ashes. 

My friend Paula had just arrived from Phoenix when I returned home after lunch. I didn't tell her about the ashes. 

That night after we said good-night, I opened the box. Inside was a simple black container nestled into packing paper. The container had heavy white tissue paper rubber-banded around it. Inside the container was a bag, stenciled in bold black letters with Dan's name and a number. The number was also embossed onto a gold tag that was attached to a twist tie that firmly sealed the bag. Inside the bag was what remained of a body I adored. Unfathomable. That the bag was so heavy. Yet fit in a box small enough to hold, say, a bottle of Grand Marnier. Everything unfathomable. 

Saturday, I still didn't tell Paula about the ashes. But I told her today. It's a difficult thing to tell. 
I'm not sure if I can say it aloud again. So I'm saying it here.

8 comments:

Teresa Evangeline said...

I find your bravery inspiring and ... calming. Thank you for sharing your grief. It's a gift to all of us.

lily cedar said...

Sending hugs.

37paddington said...

Oh Denise. I am humbled by this. Thank you for sharing it.

Ms. Moon said...

Yes, thank you for sharing. You are doing the hard work. Grieving is hard work. And as such, we need to be as tender with ourselves as possible.
Those ashes. Oh my.
Do you have plans to scatter them? I have a few pinches of ashes of loved ones here and there, kept and cherished. And I will tell you this- every time I've ever scattered ashes of someone I loved, I licked my fingers afterward and I do not think there is anything weird about that at all. It was, for me, one last taking-in of the essence of that person I had loved.
I do realize though, that this would sound fantastically wrong to some.
We all do it differently. We all do it with broken hearts and with all that leaks out of them.

S Kay Murphy said...

I am absorbing all that you are sharing as I brace for the next round of loss. Thank you.

Elizabeth said...

And I'm going to sit here Denise, bow my head and cry. Cry for you and for Dan and for all of those who mourn him. I know that his ashes are as gentle and enduring as his complete body was when he was here.

Mel said...

There is no right way to grieve, but you are doing it as well as I can imagine. I'm so glad you are spending time with friends and not turtling.

It is my Dad's ashes six years on that are a stone in my heart. Mom had a nice box decorated with his favorite polished stones, and she keeps that box in a small shrine in the living room. I can barely stand the thought of him reduced to such a small container, stuck there for mourning, and when mom is gone, I will scatter those ashes in all the places he loved, because I know he wouldn't want to be hanging around like that, I'm sure of it. It makes me so sad every time I visit.

So much of this process is unfathomable, and unpredictable. I got untethered for a while, so it is a wonderful thing that you are staying connected to friends, ocean walks and life. Thank you so much for sharing this journey, it is a privilege.

Barbara said...

Art out of loss, that's what I keep thinking when I read your words and look at your pictures. Sending love -