Honoring a dearly departed loved one by scattering his ashes to the four winds or the seven seas is never as easy as it seems.
I met a man on a bike who carried his friend in his backpack, my husband announced from the doorway of my computer room. He leaned on the doorframe, arms crossed waiting for my reaction to what he said.
I'm used to his twist on words. He plays with the English language using his French accent as a springboard. Like when he raised his glass to toast our friend at his 60th birthday party to say, Richard, I wish you a-penis always, dropping the h in happiness.
You mean he carried his friend on his back? I humored him, not taking my eyes off the computer screen.
No, I mean what I said. He carried his friend in his backpack.
What am I missing?
A-sh-es, he pronounced slowly. He walked his friend's bike on the fire road. He was tired and admitted being lost. He said the bike belonged to his friend whose ashes were in the backpack. Since his friend loved to bike the trails in Topanga, he thought he would give him one last ride, then leave his ashes on the trail.
Not on the fire road! Some dog will sniff and piss on it!
No, he didn't drop the ashes on the fire road. I mean, I didn't see him do it.
What a novel idea, I said turning back to the computer.
Let's see. Disposing of human ashes in California, I googled.
Don't ask, don't tell, writes Cremation Solutions on their website. There are no scattering police, it assured its readers and noted that cremated remains can be stark white like aquarium gravel so it's recommended to scatter the ashes over water.
That's what my friend did years ago. She chartered a boat off the Santa Barbara coast where she and her daughter took her mother's ashes out to sea toward the floating oil rig platforms.
The ocean was choppy. The air cold and windy. She got seasick.
Too weak to throw her mother's ashes overboard, her daughter opened the urn just as a powerful wave slapped hard on the boat's hull. The urn flew into the air dumping the cremated remains onto my friend's lap. She stood up to brush herself off and a gust of wind blew the ashes back into her face. Luckily, she saw the humor in it all.
My sister-in-law cremated my husband's brother. The family met at the crematorium. Prayers were exchanged. He lay in a coffin on wheels. It was rolled away to be cremated and, after awhile, his smoke blew out the chimney and into the air. A long table was set with food and we ate as molecules of my brother-in-law mixed with the clouds.
I like the Chinese tradition of taking a loved one's ashes around to visit other dead relatives before being placed in a niche and locking the little door. Before you leave the cemetery, your name must be called and you are told, We are going home now.
Yes, I am going home now, you announce to the spirits so they know you are departing.
I found ads for beautiful cremation jewelry. People can scatter the ashes of their loved ones and hold onto a tiny amount to encapsulate inside a pendant. A silver acorn comes apart at the cap and allows a lost loved one to be placed inside and hang close to the heart.
This must bring some comfort and healing. Besides, wearing the ashes keeps people from being tied down to that one location of the urn or scattered spot.
An artist in Washington state will create a glass ornament infused with a loved one's cremated remains. Less than half a teaspoon is needed and the ashes show up as a white foamy layer in the colored glass.
Awhile back, I found three small, white crosses planted into the earth beneath a small oak on Skyline Ridge. Ashes were scattered before each cross and a prayer was painted in bold black letters, a prayer for pets who gave unconditional love, loyalty and warmth over their years.
I walked the fire road after exhausting the Google searches, my gaze glued to the ground looking for anything that resembled aquarium gravel. I found none.
I hope the man with his friend in a backpack found a good place to scatter the ashesa place that will always remain sacred to him, a place to return to and enjoy beneath the Topanga sky.