I know what to do

Doug always told me that I would know what to do with his ashes if he ever died. We didn’t discuss it much further than that. We never planned or thought about a cemetery plot for the both of us or anything of that nature. It was always, ‘you’ll know what to do’.

Then when that decision had to be made, I had no idea what to do. At first, in the shock of it all and thinking of only others, I thought that I would distribute a little bit of his ashes to his friends so they could do what they thought he’d like – make it personal for them. Let them share in this decision.

Time went by and there he sat…his ashes in a black plastic box in my nightstand. It took a while for him to migrate there. At the very beginning he still laid in bed with me at night. His flight suit folded up next to me on the pillow, his hat on top of that, an old t-shirt I hadn’t washed with his scent still lingering and him. Half on the pillow and half on the bed.

Then at two years I knew I was ready to release some of his ashes. I was heading to Montana and Yellowstone again and that place, of course, held so much meaning for us. Driving up through Bear Tooth Pass on my birthday was when I released half of the small tupperware container I had a portion of his ashes in. The next day, the two year mark, I released some more inside the park into this gorgeous stream that I have always loved.

After that, I had no idea what to do with the rest of the ashes…and there is a lot…

I still want to take a trip to Ireland. A trip that he and I were planning to take before he died. I’ll save some for that. But I just had no idea what to do…I haven’t felt at peace with any of this for quite a while now.

For the past week I’ve been thinking about a friend of mine from middle school and high school, Nicki Smith. She died September 12, 1993 in a motorcycle accident. She and I were not best friends but she and I always had this great connection. We went to separate high schools and saw each other each summer when I was in volleyball camp and she was helping out her mom with some teacher in-service happening at my high school. During water breaks and lunch break I would find her sitting in the hallway right outside the gym waiting for me so we could frantically catch up. The first time we saw each other was always the best because it included this bear hug from her and one of the best smiles you’ve ever seen.

This was our friendship. Always thinking of each other and always so glad to run into each other as time just stood still for us…

I came home late one night after a volleyball game. It was my freshman year of college. We had this piano in the living room at the time and on it sat a newspaper with her picture on the front page. I smiled so big wondering what kind of accolades she was receiving or what she had accomplished – she was a great softball player and was also playing in college.

I flipped the newspaper over and read that she was killed in an accident. She was 18.

I remember screaming.

I didn’t go to her funeral. I can’t remember why exactly. I think it was because I had missed it, not knowing that she had died. I’m really not sure.

I often, quite often, think about her. I remember the night Doug died I asked her to make sure he was taken care of and to get to know him because he would love her. Her laugh, her smile and her hugs. I remember calling on her many times in my life, to give me advice, to make me feel better, to make me laugh during tough times…I’ve always kept her a part of my life. I think of her as one of my guardian angels. Because how could she not be an angel?

Today, almost 19 years later, was the first time I have been to her grave. I had to ask an old coach of mine where she was buried…as I turned into the cemetery I got out my phone to look up the plot. I had the phone in my hand and turned the car onto another road and pulled over to stop and there she was…right next to me. A picture of her in her softball uniform, short red hair and great smile, looking at me.

I had cut some fresh flowers for her from my garden and wrote her a letter. I sat in front of her headstone on the hard dirt and grass. I laid the flowers on the ground and put the letter there next to them. I didn’t stay for very long. Just long enough to tell her I missed her and I thought about her often. As I sat there, I all of a sudden knew what to do with the rest (or most of the rest) of Doug’s ashes.

I don’t know that I’ve really thought about graves much. They were just there to bury the dead and nothing more but after visiting Nicki and her grave, I felt so much at peace and I felt that I had a place to go now to talk to her. A place where I could see her picture, her forever youth and update her on the things of the living. It was so peaceful to sit there and talk to her, even in the scorching sun. It was nice to be able to write to her, to bring her flowers, to remember her and to see something physical there that would be there for hundreds of years to say that this person was loved, had lived. It was a place for friends and family to pay their respects year after year, season after season. I really can not put into words my new outlook on graves. I think that we, as the living, need these places of peace.

Maybe it is an act of closure (even though I hate that word)…who knows. All I know in my heart right now is that I think this is also what Doug would have wanted….just not all of him. I will keep a portion of him and I may even still give a part of him to his friends so that he may be scattered or kept with them. I do think though that it may be quite healing for all of us if we had a place to go to, to talk to him, to cry, to laugh…to eventually be at peace. I think the act of placing flowers or pictures or letters or even just tears or laughter into the wind is something we as the living need to do. Be it ceremonious or meditative. Part of it is also knowing that his name, his life, will forever be recorded in stone.

Now to figure out where…

…and after the where is figured out, you can bet that I will also have a place beside him for when it comes my time to leave this life.

Thank you Nicki for helping me once again…you, indeed, are an angel.

Explore posts in the same categories: Flying Dodo, Friends & Family, Widowhood

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