Today I got my dad’s ashes out of the pantry, where they were stashed beneath an empty frying oil can, and poured a measure of them into a plastic children’s cup with a screw-on top. It’s a blue cup with little pictures of cut up fruit, and Fruit Friends written all across it.
There are several points in this very short snapshot of my Thursday afternoon which may have caused me to giggle if it wasn’t also deeply upsetting to me. There was something about the physical ashes that brought the reality of my father’s death screaming back to me. The weight, the faintly metallic smell, the fine and gritty texture and the superfine dust that seems to rise and mix almost seamlessly with the air as soon as the urn is opened… This is what remains. But I’ll be the first to admit the absurdity of the situation.
Then again, the reduction of a living person with a soul, with breath, smell, stories, desires, and consciousness to a box of ashes is innately absurd.
It’s absurd to be standing next to your father’s hospital bed, watching him expire, and a few days later pick up his ashes (50% for me and 50% for my sister) at a crematorium in Dublin, complete with instructions for how to deal with said ashes at the airport.
It’s absurd to be wandering around Dublin airport with 50% of your father’s ashes, waiting for your flight to board.
It’s absurd (and maybe even a tad disrespectful) to come home and stash the urn in the pantry along with mops, brooms, cleaning products and empty bottles. But what are you supposed to do? Put them on the mantelpiece? A reminder every day that someone you love is dead? An awkward conversation piece when people come over?
This plan that I have started to take shape fairly quickly, so I knew that it was only a temporary resting place before Dad would be out on the road once more – where he belongs.
It’s absurd to sit in the hall – because I don’t want people to see me through the window in my trembling, silent grief – and pour ashes from an urn into a Fruit Friends cup, while one of my cats wonders if I’m playing a game with him or if there’s anything there he can eat. But sometimes my romantic nature has to bow to the slightly more practical, and my searches for “travel urn” had been largely unsuccessful.
I decorated a sheet of paper with an inscription in different coloured pencils and taped it to the outside of my makeshift urn. It makes me feel better about the whole matter, even though I know it still says Fruit Friends underneath.
And thus (part of) my father is ready to travel home, and I am as ready as I can be to begin the long farewell. Of course I know that he’s already gone, and I’ve already said goodbye so many times in so many ways in the last year. His soul, his spirit, is somewhere in the ether, or in heaven, or whatever you choose to believe. But I am sure that there is some part of him apart from the physical, tangible ash, that follows me on this journey.
And even when the journey ends some part of him will always remain with me.
Love you always Dad.