Oh dear God, there in the closet on a shelf are my husband, Mitch's ashes. This is what happens to our bodies. This is what happens to our bodies after we die. He's free as a bird, I tell our daughter Ava, and then I find myself at a loss for words to describe this, physical remains. Ashes after a body is cremated. It is heavy. Emotionally. The urn is heavy, ashes of a body burned are heavy. Heaviness sits with me as I look, as I look without seeing. And then in the quiet of the night, they are still there. I look away, turn off the light and dream of Mitch while I sleep. I dreamt he almost died, almost, I felt his body hard, and then like a miracle, he lived. Overjoyed.
And this is in the coming home, the full circling of my journey since he died. Seeing the ashes, starting a life anew that is all my own. Where is he? I've disconnected from our spiritual ties months ago, a conscious “living in reality” as recommended by a well-meaning friend. And now, I come back to California, I come back to him, physically, he is here waiting for me in the brass urn. A printed label on top, his name, the date of the cremation, a special id number for his body. One of many, bodies, as I've learned in real life. All bodies die. This sits in my body as a heaviness, and what is left is not him as I know him now. 1 year and 8 months ago, everything became different. I could no longer relate, connect to his physical body. This is when my spiritual search became like breathing, like a search for that next breath, after all the breath leaves our bodies. And now I've come home, and here he is, in a brass box. And this leaves me heavy, sad. I know that is not the reality that leads to that next breath, that life that comes after life.
I connect to everything about him, of him that feels alive. His music, his beautiful art, his beautiful photography, the qualities of his spirit that fill me with love, wisdom, and courage. And all things that remind me of my own spirit, sage burning, meditation, prayer, spiritual service, music. And this is how I move forward. I learn to tune into my experience, and honor that as best I can by living in accordance with it. Living in alignment with that which bring peace, acceptance, joy, light. And him, his spirit. I learn to live with the spiritual knowing that we are eternal beings, that we are all connected through both life and life after life, and in the spaces between. The memories come when I am reminded of them, so many, so much, so much in ten years. Almost like a past life, a life full of things passed. But I see without that, I would not be the same. And I'm not the same. I drive around these places I used to drive when I was carefree, when I lived without the illumination of the darkness that death brings. And as I drive around, I see that I am no longer the same, not thinking about the same things I did then. And I see now that through the illumination of the darkness, my ignorance, naivety about death, I am lighter, I now have a gratitude for life, a deep thanks in my heart, whereas before there was a fear hidden away in the dark parts of what was not known.
I see myself smiling in photos celebrating the wedding of friends and I smile inside my heart with pride, it has taken much travel, much pain, much courage, much love, and much faith to arrive here. To smile from my heart, to feel joy and the utmost gratitude for the people in my life that have held and supported me along this journey through devastation into the unknown corners of what every human being must undergo at some point of their lives. Their meeting and their peace with death. Their sadness at the impermanence of this life they love so much. A grieving of my husband and a grieving of a belief that I was invincible, that he was invincible, that this life was all there was, that spiritual truths were simply stories, not grounded in true experience. I see the rich contrast, the lessons rich in this earthly, sensuous experience where we are connected to each tree, each stone, each crystal, each rising and falling tide, each fistful of earth, and that we are also as infinite as the universe expands. A journey into wholeness, a wholeness that is forever expanding and lighting the world. And I decide I will keep a small beautifully carved wooden container with my husband's ashes, and the rest that rest in that heavy brass urn will be scattered somewhere beautiful.
“To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
Against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.”
In Blackwater Woods