by jexmas on October 5, 2013

This prompt, “write about ashes,” reminds me of my parents’ deaths. They died eight weeks apart, even though they were 16 years apart in age. My mother died first at 73, of the breast cancer that had slowly eaten away her soul over a very long period of time. My father died very suddenly of a  stroke when he was 89, barely two months later. When I tell people about this, they jump to the conclusion my parents were very close and died so close together because my father could not bear to live without my mother. But that sentiment is simply not true, in spite of the deep bond between them.

There is a park near where they lived in Melbourne, Australia, a city park that runs alongside a section of the Yarra River. My parents had agreed to look after my dogs, two Dalmatians, when I moved to the United States and they walked the dogs in the park regularly, although not together. Either my father took them or my mother took them, but they did not walk the dogs together.

When my mother died, my sister and I scattered her ashes along the edge of the river. She had not expressed any particular wish about what we should do with them. In fact, she did not want to talk about her death at all. We decided the peaceful, leafy and open expanse would suit her spirit and we spread her remains as gently as we could in a fine and dusty cloud over as wide an area as we could.

When my father died, he went so suddenly, he also had not expressed any particular wish about his ashes. My sister and I discussed what we would do and decided we would scatter his ashes in the park, too. When we got down there, we intuitively felt we could not scatter them over the same territory as my mother’s ashes. That would be torture for him.

We scattered them over the other side of the park, under some majestic trees I know he would have loved, since they reminded him of the beautiful garden he created over years as we were growing up in our first house.

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