Wednesday, September 27, 2006
We went down to the river. Sons, daughter, mother, sister, grandchildren. We threw the ashes in. It was early afternoon, but as autumn gathers the sun never gets very high. As we tossed handfuls of the burnt remains into the water the dust caught the light from the low sun. The stuff itself isn't very dusty, it's surprisingly coarse, and somewhat crystalline in texture, but I suppose that the crematorium consumes things at very high temperatures, producing this strange matter. Only her sister was too squeamish or perhaps too sensible to join in. The grandchildren all grabbed a handful, threw it as far as they could and threw a flower in afterwards. My grandmother, old but still not frail exactly, made her way out over the edge of the riverbank. "Goodbye Sal," she said, quietly, unhysterically, and threw away the last grasp of her daughter she'd have.
There was enough of it for another dozen mourners, but we were in a public spot, and unsure of the legality of what we were doing. The last third or so of the container I upended over the water, enjoying the dust surrounding me. That would wash off. Self-evidently you can't wash away memories. The river ran clear there, and you could see the ashes colouring the river bed.
The whole scene had a kind of awkward suburban beauty to it. My wife took a picture. Then we went to Ikea. Life will go on, so you may as well go with it.