Valentine’s Day is round the corner. So much love and chocolate heart-shapes and flowers and smooshy stuff at every turn. However, smooshy stuff is not my thang, y’all. I want to talk about the dark-dancing romance of: death-eath-eath-eath-eath . . . .
The day before I was to turn in Tender Graces, I drove through our Smokies listening to a Celtic group siren out the song of my mountains, and a scene burned into my brain of Virginia Kate riding Fionadala up the mountainside, hair and mane and tail flying—all a blur of upward movement and thundering sound. And in Virginia Kate’s pack lay Momma’s ashes. At the ridgetop she opened the urn, and as she twirled-twirled-twirled, boned ash littered the air and then at last (un)rested on the mountainside, on Virginia Kate, on Fionadala. I quickly added the scene at the oh-so-very last minute as a short dreamy imagery-prologue and sent the final manuscript off to my editor—no regrets.
That’s when I knew I wanted to be cremated. My decision solidified as I ran my hand through my beloved companion dog’s ashes—oh how the lighter specks sparkled in the sunlight, the heavier pieces final-falling to the ground. And then my dear father—I poured a portion of his three million pieces plus two in a favorite place. How his ashes glowed so puri-fired white! It is a reverential experience to release a beloved one’s ashes, later finding dusty remnants in a fingernail, a crevice of the skin, dusted across the hair of an arm. You find it difficult to wash off their essence, until you recognize that it will be one more journey for them, down down down, water finding water finding water to the sea.
Thing is, if you burn yourself to a boned-ash crisp, where’s your tombstone? Who will ever know you were an Earth creature, and know what you were all about? Where is your tangible writer’s legacy? Architects leave behind structures; artists leave behind works of art; actors leave behind movies and television; dead people leave behind tombstones.