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PENINSULA ZOOMER: Ashes and dust, pottery and closure

Summer’s COVID-19 reprieve offered opportunity to say final goodbyes

Ashes to ashes.

Dust to dust.

The phrase ‘ashes to ashes’ expresses the notion that we come from dust and we return to dust.

It’s kind of ironic I write to you about ashes and dust when we are in the throes of a heatwave with countless fires burning in B.C. and in other parts of the world.

Our helpless Earth is burning, leaving behind ashes.

And as I witnessed the burial of my ex-mother-in-law and ex-husband on the same afternoon recently, I am a little obsessed with ashes.

It makes sense, I guess, to continue my story from my May column where I shared with you the unfairness of not being able to grieve properly as a result of COVID-19. Not being able to say goodbye to loved ones in the hospital as they died.

But dear Mr. COVID has given us a reprieve and allowed us to say goodbye finally.

So we did.

On Mayne Island.

It was a cloudy, drizzly day as we got on the ferry but by the time we arrived, the sun revealed herself in all her brilliant glory.

As I stood next to the hole in the ground where Grandma was going to be placed, I must admit seeing the vacant space in the earth, made it all seem so final.

Grandma, being a potter, had made her own urn for her ashes as she had done for her husband who predeceased her and lay there awaiting her arrival.

Together again.

As they were Christians, the meaning of dust took on a different slant. From the King James version of the bible, Genesis 3:19, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

Makes sense and brings with it a semblance of peace as we scattered dirt on both of the urns.

And then we proceeded to the community hall to celebrate the long life of this remarkable woman.

One down, one to go.

In the late afternoon, we walked along a mossy path on our property which felt welcoming and comforting under our feet.

The sun glistened through the majestic trees as we arrived at yet another hole in the ground.

One daughter passed around bags of Hawkins Cheezies to everyone as well as a bottle of Heineken beer. She placed a stuffed squirrel animal and a framed collage of photos next to her father’s final resting place.

The other daughter poured his ashes into the earthly cavity and placed some flowers and a pair of pottery ducks which Grandma, his mother, had made.

Oh yes, there were some tears but a feeling of peace washed over me.

I believe they call this closure. Such a hackneyed expression but you get my drift.

I feel confident each person present, experienced closure in their own way.

I pour it out to you in my column as does my elder daughter in her blog entitled Idiosyncratic Mewsings where she processes her grief her way. She calls it Afterlife.

Paw prints scattered

For souls to find their way,

Imprints of the living

Like litter gone astray.

Where the trailhead meets

I shall meet you there

I will be waiting

I will be fair.

For to judge one after

One’s life has been set

Is to judge by how

One has treated a cat.

For me, I take solace in knowing that our scorched earth will be cooled by the ashes of these two kind souls.

May they rest in peace.

April Lewis is the local communications director for CARP, a national group committed to a ‘New Vision of Aging for Canada.’ She writes monthly.

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