Scattering Ashes: A Daughter’s Story

(An open letter to my dear departed Mother)

Cremation seems to be a popular choice in our family. Who wants to be buried in a dark, dank hole? That certainly wouldn’t have worked for you, Mom. What if your spirit lingered there? You never did like cramped spaces. Or worms. Or spiders. And you hated the cold, almost as much as I do.  So, it was an obvious choice for you.

scattering ashes
Me, my cousins & Mom in the Bahamas. photo: by Amy Larson

But did you realize how many ashes you would create?! You hear about people “sprinkling” ashes, but it is more like dumping them out. And, who wants to be dumped, like garbage? Some people want their ashes buried, with a headstone marking their passage on this earth. But, what if your spirit is somehow connected? Then you’re back to square one with the problems of burial.

scattering Ashes
photo: by Amy Larson

Some have a special spot where they want their ashes scattered (“dumped”), but you could never decide. You had too many special spots. And, besides, if your spirit lingered there, then you would forever be tied to that one location. I’m sorry, but I just can’t do that. You were tied to one spot for too long.

Scattering Ashes
Scattering ashes in the Bahamas.

You always joked about burying Grammy’s ashes under a rosebush and carrying her with you. But, rose bushes don’t travel well. They grow tall and prickly, and their roots quickly outgrow a pot. And, if I planted you with the rose bush, then I’d be back to square one with the problems of burial.

scattering Ashes
Scattering ashes in Mom’s special spot. photo: by Amy Larson

For 5 years, you’ve mostly sat on the shelf in my office (next to Grammy), and I’ve thought often about what to do with you. I’ve sprinkled a bit of you here and there, in all of your favorite spots. Then, last year, I took you to the Bahamas; a place I know you loved beyond all others. Jack painted a special jar for you, and I put a bit of you inside. (And a bit of Grammy, of course – she hated to be left behind.) You were so portable that way! And, I recalled how you loved to travel. How you planned to travel more after your retirement, but you never retired. Then, I had an idea.

Scattering Ashes
Scattering Ashes in Sayulita, Mexico.

There were so many places you wanted to see, Mom, but never had the chance. So, instead of choosing one special place, I am going to keep you with me. In your special jar. And, each time I get to travel to some far-off place I know you’d love; each time I come across some secret, sacred spot; each time I wander off the beaten path to find some hidden beauty, I will take you with me (and a bit of Grammy).

scattering ashes
Me, Mom, Grammy, and Jack.

I’ll sprinkle some of your ashes there – I won’t dump them, I promise – in hopes that your spirit does linger. And, if so, that it will have much traveling to do, bouncing around between all the bits of you I’ve scattered around. You’ll be a world traveler, just like you always wanted to be. (And Grammy will be there with you, just like she always was.)

—by Lisa Riley

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Lisa is a Restoration Ecologist and Technical Writer from Bend, OR. Her work takes her across the western half of the country, putting plants in the ground and trying to do her part to save the planet. When stuck in the office, it is generally to write proposals, planting designs, weed control plans, and other technical documents (nothing remotely interesting or fun). Lisa has always loved to write, but has only been published by Annette (bless her heart) in her former publication, True North, and in the one she currently edits, Red Tricycle. Reading, writing and exploring the world are what Lisa loves to do (besides saving the planet), and She Explores Life is an attempt to integrate them all into something bigger. She is just looking forward to seeing where this all takes us!