The Last Time…

A last reminder

“Call Dad @ 3PM on Monday”

“Call Dad @ 7am on Wednesday”

Those notes to myself are still stuck to the wall above my bed, tucked into the top of one of my favourite pictures of one of my favourite “people”.

“Call Dad @ 3PM on Monday” Monday, September 2, 2013. The next day, he was going to be prepping for his surgery on Wednesday and didn’t think he’d want to talk to anyone. So we had a long chat — about nothing, about everything — this one last time.

“Call Dad @ 7am on Wednesday” Wednesday, September 4, 2013. A quick call after I got home from work on the day of his surgery, to wish him well, to tell him I loved him before he headed off with my brother to the hospital.

Two-and-a-half weeks in the hospital, during which I fought other callers, visitors, pain, and drugs for time to talk with him. Our conversations were short and sad and so very heartbreaking. Then a week at home, where I still fought other callers, visitors, pain, and drugs for time to talk with him. (I went home at the end of September, to look after him while we waited for home health care to kick in, but he passed away only a couple of short weeks later, at 9AM on October 16, 2013. )

Today would have been his 77th birthday. And not a day goes by that I don’t wish I had more time to talk to him, about nothing, about everything.

You don’t ever think that the last time is the Last Time. For anything.

Shaken, not stirred

Haven’t felt a significant earthquake myself here in Ottawa since the one I wrote about in June 2010.

Was trying to get a nap in after working all night and felt this vibration go through the springs of my mattress, like a huge truck convoy going past the house. When it went on too long, I decided to get up and check online. Twitter for the win!

According to the Earthquakes Canada site, they’d initially said it was a 4.8 near Braeside, ON, but now they’re reporting it as a 5.1 magnitude quake 21 km NE of Shawville, QC, at 09:43. The page for it is at http://www.earthquakescanada.nrcan.gc.ca/recent_eq/2013/20130517.1343/index-eng.php.

The USGS page for the event is at http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/usb000gxna#summary.

Be sure and report it if you felt it at both places. (Both pages offer questionnaires to fill out for just that thing.)

Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely

When I was recovering from my pulmonary embolism in early 2000, I slept sitting up in a cushioned rocker chair. As always, Maci slept with me, in this case on a pillow tucked between the side of the chair and my chest so that he wouldn’t be lying with his full weight directly on my chest. (It became our standard way of sleeping right up until shortly before his passing.) During that recovery phase, I played one song almost exclusively on my Walkman: The Backstreet Boys’ “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely“. At the time, there was something about the “hard to breathe” part in the first verse that caught my attention, since I couldn’t.

Show me the meaning of being lonely
Is this the feeling I need to walk with
Tell me why I can’t be there where you are
There’s something missing in my heart

In the years after that, my singing of this chorus became one of the things that would bring Maci to me from wherever he was in the apartment (“Viva Forever” by the Spice Girls was another) and so it is inextricably tied up with my memories of him. The words are so much more poignant now that they were back then.

It’s been three years now since my mother started to wrap up her time in this world and two years since my beloved boy started to wrap up his: I miss you both more than I can possibly describe, every day, and I’m still wondering why I can’t be there where you are.

Giving thanks

As a child, saying grace meant reciting (without really understanding) the typical child’s prayer, “God is Great, God is Good; Let us thank Him for our food.” It was usually reserved for special occasions like Christmas or Thanksgiving when company was over. Otherwise, despite my mother being very much a Christian, saying grace did not figure much into our day-to-day lives.

My paternal grandmother, on the other hand, said grace with every meal. When we visited with her, we were included in the ritual, holding hands around the dinner table as she recited her ever-changing and heart-felt thanks. I was impressed with my grandmother’s ability to give thanks without resorting to a rhyming child’s prayer, but I never quite understood the point of thanking a god (your God) for your food, as though it/he was the only reason you had food in the first place. When I was little, saying grace was just something you did by rote, like reciting the Lord’s Prayer. After I began my spiritual search as a teenager, it was just a reminder that I had put Christianity aside.

I never really thought of the concept of giving thank again until just a few years ago when I began considering veganism.

I was (and still am somewhat) conflicted about veganism as a lifestyle choice. On the one hand, I’m just not a big meat eater and I never have been. On the other hand, veganism tends to be somewhat unbalanced — all-or-nothing, black-or-white, rather than shades of grey — and I am more and more about the grey as I get older. I found it hard to reconcile the idea that meat-eating was somehow unnatural with the fact that carnivores abound in Nature itself. And if it’s wrong to eat a living creature, why is it then OK to eat living plants? Isn’t that using the same judgement that makes people think that animals are less than us to make plants less than animals?

As I was trying to work out the inconsistencies in my head, I came across a July 2008 blog post by Amber the Donkey at Spring Farm Cares that answered the very questions I had. I’m going to reproduce the post here in its entirety simply because it’s hard to link directly to it on the Spring Farms site. (It predates the Blogspot blog and I really want you to read it; and whatever you may or may not think about the idea that animals can communicate with us, I urge you to visit the Spring Farm Cares site and its blog and read the posts ascribed to Amber in particular — regardless of their origin, they are incredibly profound yet accessible and may well answer questions you didn’t even know you had.) Any highlighting/emphasis is mine.

Q: I am wondering if being a vegetarian is most appropriate for an animal lover like me. I have done this before, but currently I eat meat. I certainly do not like supporting the cruelty of the meat industry — especially the factory farms. At the same time, I look at the animal world, and see meat eaters everywhere. So, what say you?

Amber Donkey: This is a question for which each and every one of you must answer for yourselves. Your choices that you make for your well-being and your body are yours alone to make. That basic guideline being stated, I can give you my opinion and the opinion of the animals I live with, some of whom would be eaten if they were not here. This is a question that immediately raises lots of emotion and judgment for many people. I would like to say emphatically, that whatever your choice, it should never be judged by anyone. Many feel they do not want to eat meat to honor the animals, and then they condemn and judge those who have made different choices. This does not honor the animals at all. Your question is actually 2 separate issues however. And I will answer it in two parts to make it more clear.

The first issue is to eat meat or not and how do animals feel about it. I can tell you this. Animals understand being eaten. Animals understand the predator/prey relationship. Humans do not understand this. Many look to animals and say that they eat each other so it must be ok to be eaten. But what you fail to see is that those animals who eat other animals to live, do so in relationship to those other animals. In that relationship there is respect, honor, appreciation, and love of Life that is passed between the animal being eaten and the one eating of it’s flesh. Every animal eaten by another animal is taken with regards to their spiritual connection with all of Life. It is never taken unjustly. It is never taken lightly. It is never taken for granted. And no life is ever wasted. That is the essence of the predator/prey relationship. It is based on honor and respect. Animals are not upset that humans eat meat. In fact, in our own barn we have heard visitors say that those who eat meat are not spiritual. We believe this is not correct. These are not mutually exclusive.

However, most humans are not even aware of what they are eating. They do not eat with spiritual awareness. If you did, you would be in relationship to all you eat, plant and animal alike. You would be conscious of the fact that for you to live, something lends it’s life to you to nourish you. You would thank each and every thing that nourishes you. And in that respect, that life would live on through you. When you are out of relationship with what you eat, then you do not honor what is being given to you. That is equally true for plant life as well as animal life. There is no difference. Life is life. Plants do have conscious awareness. It just looks different to you. Herbivores are in relationship to what they eat. I am always thankful to the grasses and grains that have given their lives for me. That thankfulness is a part of who I am, as it is for each and every one of the beings who live with me on this farm. We have a relationship with grass and plants.

What we see in humans is a lot of ingratitude for what you are given. Do you ever thank your food? Do you thank the apple for the nourishment it brings you? Do you thank the leaf of lettuce? The tomato? The chicken or the cow? So many people do not even have awareness of what kind of animal they are eating. So the travesty is the lack of awareness and relationship with what nourishes you. Animals understand that in the end we all are eaten. Our bodies are consumed by another or insects or earth. It is part of the cycle. Humans have removed themselves completely from that cycle. You may be on the top of the food chain, but you have no understanding of the relationship of every living thing around you. And while you may not be eaten by other animals, you are certainly eaten by your own misgivings.

The second part of your question is actually about factory farming. Because while animals understand being eaten and that relationship, it doesn’t mean we understand living lives of hell and dying in panic and pain. That also is not part of the natural way of things. And it is a direct product of humans not being in relationship with their food. If you were in relationship with all you ate, you would never mistreat an animal in the food chain. You would never kill your vegetables with poisons. You would treat ALL living things with love, respect, and honor. Because you would understand that the life you treat well will nourish you. Instead, you have walled off all relationship with your food and thus have treated the living beings who give their lives to you with complete disrespect, dishonor, and total lack of compassion. And this you then feed to yourselves and your children. If humans for one minute felt the anguish and pain of the animals you hold captive and kill for your food, the practice you call factory farming would come to a screeching halt. Yet you blindly consume that anguish daily. What you do to them goes into you.

Is it possible then to eat meat and be spiritual? Absolutely yes. To do so you simply need to make your choice to be aware and thankful of each and every thing you eat and that nourishes you. When you have done that, you will have honored the life of that being who will then live on through your flesh. This is true for the grass I eat. It is true for the carrots and apples people bring me. It is true for the chickens and ducks who live with me. All of us understand this as such a basic and simple truth.

With those words, I understood the point of saying grace. It’s not about thanking some nebulous, singular higher power; it’s about thanking your fellow living entities for their contributions to your survival.  It’s something many cultures (particularly cultures that live closer to the land) have long understood, but unfortunately something that many people have lost touch with.

Note: This post has been languishing in my Drafts folder for years, but comes to mind now after Kate wrote about meeting two rats. In her post, she describes what one of the rats, Ohna, passed onto her; and it echoes Amber’s words so much that it reminds me of how poorly I’ve followed the advice I read four years ago:

Please tell the other humans to take a moment to connect with the souls of the animals who have died for them. (Shows me humans eating chicken off of a plate.) You don’t have to feel sad for them or guilty – these emotions will only make you sick in your heart, and they will not help the animals. Just take a moment to thank the animals who have touched your life and your body (shows me leather belts and shoes.) Animals are all around humans all the time. Their bodies are everywhere and so their spirit consciousness is everywhere too. Thank your animals (the ones you eat, the ones you wear) and it will do your soul good.

Overload

“I don’t know.”

It’s been my rote answer to almost every meaningful question over the last year or more.

What do you want? I don’t know. How do you feel? I don’t know. Where are you headed? I. Don’t. Know.

From a metaphysical point of view, I’ve been shoveling other people’s videos, audios, writings into my head since my teenage years. With the explosion of the Internet and the massive amount of information that is available at our fingertips about any and every conceivable topic, I’m reaching critical overload. I may have already tripped the breaker; the question is, do I want to reset it?

I’ve been trying to meditate more over the last several weeks. It was going good for awhile, but lately I’m finding myself too frustrated to pay sufficient attention. The more frustrated I get, the less I can meditate; the less I meditate, the more frustrated I get. It’s a self-sustaining cycle. As the frustration builds, I find myself falling back into the habit of researching.

I’m a junkie addicted to the compiling of information, the assimilation of data. An information binge eater. I can’t just sample it, I must gorge myself on everything I can find on a topic and then, unsurprisingly, find myself completely burned out at the end. Binge eating fills a void. Everyone’s void is different but the key to getting a handle on it is the same: find out what the void is and find a better way to fill it, repair it. Information binge eating is exactly the same, driven by the same need to fill a psychological or metaphysical void. It goes hand-in-hand with many aspects of hoarding (in that bingeing on information frequently includes stockpiling books, videos, digital content, and what not) and brings along much of the same baggage. For me, the metaphysical bingeing derives at least partly from this need to fill the huge questioning void in my soul, as though someone else holds the key to my own spiritual quest, when a quest by its very nature is personal and individual and something only you can undertake.

It’s really time that I started looking within for my answers, instead of expecting to find the answers to my own personal questions and crises in someone else’s words. To do that, I really need to be more conscientious about meditating and using other inward-facing tools like journaling. My dreams have been particularly vivid lately so I want to start recording those where I can remember them. Just take an inner journey of my own instead of reading about other people’s mystical travels. I may have to avoid the Internet for awhile to do that.

[As an aside, today, while napping in between stretches of watching the new Bob Marley documentary, I had a dream in which I told a man who looked like a young Bill Gates that there were people out there with both a deep understanding of the metaphysical nature of the universe and a great affinity with technology and that he should go find them, actively go out there and search for them, because they were the future. It seemed important enough to me that I kept repeating the words every time I woke up briefly in order that I wouldn't forget when I finally got up. (Didn't quite work out, since I forgot some of the specific words, but the gist and images of it remained. I also forgot something Bob Marley himself said in the dreams, something I'd also thought was important but clearly not as important. LOL)]

Spiders and storyweaving

Over the last couple of weeks, I have encountered spiders regularly in my bedroom. One spider at a time. It’s been a long time since I’ve lived in a house and so I haven’t really encountered spiders very often in my adult life. (During the emptying of my old apartment in November and December, I found and dispatched a number of spiders from the dark and dusty recesses of the various clutter-filled cubby holes, but that was in conjunction with a whole lot of other multi-legged undesirables; otherwise I hadn’t encountered more than a handful of spiders in my own home in my entire adult life.)

I’m not afraid of spiders — in fact, an old boyfriend had a pet tarantula that I held and let crawl up my arm. (As an aside, if you’ve never held a tarantula, you really should at least once in your life. It’s a most remarkable sensation — their “feet” feel like the hook side of velcro, which is not at all what I expected. And it tickles.) But I don’t like the idea of spiders getting into things they aren’t meant to be in, like my hair. So I have difficulty letting them remain in areas where that is a possibility. I’ve tried to explain to them that there’s an entirely empty bedroom next to mine that they are welcome to take over, but they seem to like mine best. It’s not a good mix.

During all this, and despite the fact that I’ve long considered getting a spider or spider web tattoo, I’ve never considered that perhaps the repeated presence of the spiders might have a more symbolic meaning. My weekly class with Asia Voight last night featured one of my favourite authors, Dr. Steven Farmer. He spoke about power animals and spirit animals and about learning to recognize when the repeated presence of a particular animal brings a message for you. While I was listening, I decided to bring up the Spider card in his “Messages From You Animal Spirit Guides Oracle Cards” iPhone app:

Trust the creative spark you’re feeling, and express it through writing stories that inspire and enlighten.  The pulse of creativity is especially strong right now, triggering a not unfamiliar and compelling desire to express yourself through creative writing. Whether or not the tales you weave are true, whether they’re based on actual experience or the imaginings of your fertile mind, each day sit yourself down and pour out the words that come to you. Don’t ponder each sentence or paragraph; just write whatever wants to be written through you. To inspire and enlighten others, you don’t need a profoundly complex tale. Start by describing a personal experience, one where you gained some insight that may also be useful for others. However, don’t focus on how people will respond to your story; instead, just enjoy the process of writing without judging your work or yourself. [...]

Associations: Creativity, wisdom, weaving, balance, storytelling, writing, connectedness, inspiration, femininity, nurturing, communication, imagination, individuality

It touches on two things that have been on my mind lately: blogging and continuing to work on the novels I started for past 3-Day Novel contests:

  • Blogging: I didn’t write much in this blog after Maci died because, well, I just really couldn’t put what I was going through into words. Since the move, I’ve been wanting to write more here, but I’ve been conflicted. This blog has always been my general, all purpose blog. I’ve tried to keep most of my spiritual and writing ramblings to other blogs I’ve created for those purposes, but that hasn’t been working for me so far as it has led only to dozens of half-written and halfhearted draft posts strewn across all of the blogs, with few actually published. I don’t want to split myself apart like that any more so I’m going to reintegrate myself into this one blog. And I’m going to start trying to post regularly — perhaps even daily like I did before. I do have thoughts to share that might well help someone else, and if not, the writing is the thing. If it only helps me to sort things out, then it will have done its job well.
  • Writing: When I moved, I threw away most of the books I’d collected over the years. The relatively few books I kept tend to fall into three categories — spiritual, technical writing or grammar, and creative writing. The technical writing/grammar books I kept because I expect to one day go back into technical writing and many of the books I have are hard to come by today; the spiritual books are relevant to my current intentions for my life; and the creative writing books speak to my long-held and newly-renewed desire to write and publish (even if on my own) a novel. Today, I received my participation sticker for last year’s 3-Day Novel contest and a pretty hefty discount offer for this year’s contest fee (30% off). So I signed up again. Between now and then, I would like to revisit some of the other stories I’d begun for past contests and finally get them written. One in particular — one that speaks to the interconnectedness of all things — seems to want to be written now and so I think I will start on that one. One of my biggest difficulties with past contests is that I lacked the discipline to sit down over a 3-day long weekend and try to write an entire novel. By making a commitment now to write at least something every day, perhaps I will be able to succeed in September. More importantly, the stories already bursting to be finished will be that much closer to completion and release into the world.

Truth and accuracy in the new world

We live in a marvelous technological age, an age in which we have easy and ready access to almost every piece of information we could ever want.

Unfortunately, that easy access comes at a price. At a time when anyone with a computer and a little spare time can fake a video or photograph of practically anything, can you believe anything you see? In an age where the sharing of information is prized but the verification of said information is not (hello, Facebook), can you believe anything you read?

These were all issues that existed long before the Internet and computer technology — art forgeries, counterfeit money and goods, hoaxes of all kinds have existed pretty much as long as value has been associated with anything that humans treasure, be it physical items or ideas. Lying (and it’s gentler cousin Tricking) has existed since the dawn of time. Today’s technology just makes it easier, and the culture of the Internet encourages it. Think of all the well-intentioned people you’ve known who’ve passed on hoax emails or stories simply because they didn’t bother to conduct a tiny amount of research before forwarding.

I have a number of friends and pages I follow on Facebook who are prone to posting inspirational quotes that they’ve found on some quote site somewhere (or that someone had in turn forwarded to them). They don’t bother to consider whether or not the person they’re attributing the quote to actually ever said or wrote it. And so they propagate the misinformation even more. Often the true originator of the quote never gets credited. Occasionally it’s a quote I like, but I’d like to know the specifics before I re-use it. And I usually can’t find that. Tonight, I’ve been trying to find the origins of following quote typically attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” You can’t find the quote in that form (or anything similar) on sites that contain the texts of all of his works, such as rwe.org or Project Gutenberg. And the Wikiquotes discussion for his page is no help either. So it’s unlikely that it was something that came from Emerson, but it will be forever attributed to him all the same. Which is a shame, since it dilutes the impact and import of the words he *did* write.

Further reading:

  • Falser Words Were Never Spoken, NY Times article by Brian Morton from August 2011 that discusses this very issue (I’ve come across this article several times over the last week or so, via different avenues)

A very good place to start

“So…you mentioned ‘epic’ in your last post. Care to elaborate?”

Oh, yeah.

I should probably explain that.

And why I know this time is different.

(I know…how many times have I said that. I have journals and diaries going back decades that attest to my high failure rate at making any lasting changes in any aspect of my life. So why is it different now?)

After my last Maci-related posts here, I drifted in apathy and sadness and nothingness. Slept a lot. Ate more. Wallowed endlessly. Got further out of control in pretty much every aspect of my life.

Cut to November 9.

That was the day that I decided I needed a new start — an extreme new start.

[I grew up in a household full of wonderful clutter. The difference between that home and mine is that my mother was neat and tidy by nature (where I’m messy and lazy) and so our houses were always charming and homey in their clutter. And my mother was a serial collector — giving away the contents of one collection when another was started — rather than a hoarder.

When my mother died, my attitude towards “stuff” began to change. You can’t take it with you, and if I were to die, there was nothing I owned that anyone would struggle to (or want to) keep — at best, things to be sold off to get rid of them; at worst, they would just be tossed out. If it wasn’t making me happy to have it around me, then why keep it? My attachment to my “stuff” was weakening, but the situation I was in was overwhelming.]

Trying to fix things while staying put where I was wasn’t working for me. It was long past time for a change.

“Portable” became my new mantra.

I put in my notice on my apartment and found a room to rent in someone else’s house. Rented a small storage unit and a mail box.

I threw away most of my belongings, and I do mean “most”, including almost all of the books that I’d been desperately holding onto for decades, every piece of furniture I owned, my television, and most of my computer equipment. (I know — it seems a waste to have thrown out so many functional and usable items, but ultimately that excuse has been keeping me from decluttering properly for years and if I held onto things now long enough to sell or give them away, I’d never be free. It had to be a quick and clean break and that meant throwing things away while I could.)

I couldn’t manage to do it all myself — not because I was holding onto things, but because I wasn’t in the best shape or health and trying to do this huge a job on my own while working 12-hour shifts was hard. So I hired the 1-800-Got-Junk guys. Unfortunately, one completely-packed-to-the-rafters truckload and many personal trips to the dumpsters later and my apartment still looked like a squat. That’s when I realized that I’d never finish it if I stayed, so I cut and ran before the new year. One of these days I’ll get a bill from the landlord for the final clean up. And that’s a small price for the sense of relief that doing a runner brought.

So now I live in a rented room in a house with dogs and a small yard. My phone and my Internet are mobile and contract-free. My electronics are all portable. The only furniture I own is a new twin mattress set. Everything else that is here with me is in a half dozen plastic storage containers. My small storage unit is severely underutilized and contains pretty much only those items that I wanted to keep but didn’t need with me: my mother’s paintings, my technical writing and other reference books, photos, my guitar, some tarot/oracle card decks, and some papers I didn’t have time to sort through. If I were to lose it all tomorrow, I’d be disappointed but not heartbroken, and that’s very liberating.

I live closer to where I work so I’ve virtually eliminated my taxi addiction and I’m walking more. I’m working on cleaning up my finances and my health. I’m coming out of my hermitage and beginning to actually interact with the Real World in ways I’ve avoided for over a decade. I’ve returned to the spiritual quest I paused years ago. And I’m working out what phase II is going to look like.

I am still very much a work-in-progress. I don’t know where this is going, but I’m no longer afraid and no longer hiding. And that’s a very good place to start an epic journey.

We interrupt this interruption…

I need to live with nothing fixed
Don’t tell me what’s gonna happen next
I’m alright, I like the way this feels
Leave behind all the things I miss
The next stop isn’t where you think it is
‘Cos tonight I’m riding off the rails [...]

The end is where you hope you never say
“I coulda done it better”
I’m gonna keep what counts
and throw away what doesn’t really matter
And I wanna die on the highest high

(McFly, “The End”)

I started writing this blog back in August 2006 as I was heading into a full-blown mid-life crisis. The years since then have been rocky — ups and downs and sideways turns and rolls that never quite amounted to anything I’d hoped for. The expected mid-life crisis certainly never really materialized.

This is the year.

I don’t know the shape of my future, but I know it looks unlike anything I ever imagined.

It’s going to be epic.

The cremains of the day

Forgive me if I’m wallowing a little today.

I finally decided to open the box containing Maci’s “ashes” to extract a small amount of them to place into a simple urn pendant that I’ve had for several weeks. It was far more emotional than I thought it would be.

At the time that I had to make the decision to euthanize Maci, there was no room in my head for anything except the most basic of decisions. First, the Big Decision. (No, no more suffering; let him go.) Do you want some time to say goodbye? (No, I want you to wake him up so I can take him home and never let him go again, but that’s not really one of my choices, is it.) Do you want his ashes returned? (Of course. Duh.) Yes, please. Would you like a wooden box or a ceramic urn? (Oh, god, a ceramic urn is going to lead to me Dust Bustering Maci up off the carpet at some point in the near future.) Wooden. Most definitely wooden. Nameplate? What? Yeah, whatever. Do you want to take the carrier home? (Oh, god, no. No, I don’t. I have to leave, before I give into the urge to run back in, scoop him up, and spirit him away.)

It was all over so quickly and in such a haze. In hindsight, I’d wished I’d asked for a clipping of hair, or a paw print. Something recognizable of him. But it was too late when I thought of that. Hell, there are a lot of things I wish I’d done that day that I can’t go back and do over.

I was touched, when I picked up his remains a few weeks later, to discover that the crematorium thought of what a grieving pet owner would want without even being asked. The box itself was placed in a lovely black velvet bag embroidered with the words “Until We Meet Again at the Rainbow Bridge”, and then placed in a white “Thinking of you” gift bag with blue tissue paper.

"Gift" bags from crematorium

The velvet bag also contained a little card with Maci’s name on the front. Inside the card was a paw print and a little bag of clipped hair fastened to the card with a heart-shaped pin.

It all made a potentially difficult moment so much easier than it could have been.

Several days after I picked up the package, I opened up the bottom of the box for the first time. I’d never seen cremains before. All I knew is what I’d seen on TV shows and in movies, where you see some hapless person knock over the urn containing Aunt Martha’s ashes and they scatter all over the floor. They always look like cigarette ashes — grey and fine — and so that’s what I was expecting. I didn’t expect (though I probably should have if I had really thought about the process) them to look like large-grained sand, like the sand you put at the bottom of an aquarium. Only a few non-white speckles, no ash at all. Just the ground up remains of the bones and other hard elements of the body. Everything else, it would seem, pretty much vaporizes.

I don’t look at them too closely, though, in case there is still something there that is recognizable. I’m not sure I could handle that right now.

Such a small amount of remains to mark the huge hole in my life left by his absence. Should be…more.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

(W.H. Auden, “Funeral Blues”, 1938)

 

Maci's pendant urn