Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Our Story: Part 17

Spreading his ashes
On August 19th 2006 it was a weekend day and Craig and I were out to lunch. It was a beautiful day and we had no plans.

We had been planning on taking Curtis' ashes a few hours north to Craig's family cabin but hadn't done it yet. We wanted to be alone up there when we did it. We knew no family was up there that weekend.
"Do you think it is as nice at the cabin as it here?" I asked, fiddling with my napkin.

"Should we go?"

We didn't even discuss what we were going to do. We just knew. We drove home, got the dog, got his urn and a screwdriver to open the bottom of the urn. At the last minute, I grabbed my camera.
The drive up was quiet. Craig kept saying he was trying to think up ways to make the trip up there fun. To make idle chit chat, or something. But it wasn't any of that. It was a somber time. Craig, me, the dog, and an urn full of ashes. I kept fighting tears back at the prospect of what would happen. I would be touching Curtis again. I was going to be opening that urn and had no idea what would greet me under that metal plate.

We got to the cabin around 4pm. It was crystal clear and calm. Bright blue sky with puffy clouds. We walked down to the dock and sat at the end of it, the dog sniffing around, the urn between us.
At this point, we started taking pictures. I took pictures of his urn looking out towards the water:

We took turns posing with the urn. Smiles on our faces. I look at the photos and I do see true smiles. We were not faking it, we were smiling. We took pictures of the beautiful lake, the calm water.
We laid on the end of the dock, set the self timer and took this photo of the 3 of us. (What is funny was the dog was in this photo too, but she wouldn't sit still and I am actually pushing her down so she wouldn't ruin the photo. It was one of the silly moments of the day I will always remember.)

We eventually stopped taking photos and looked at each other. "Should we start?" I asked Craig. He nodded.
I unscrewed the 4 screws holding my son's ashes in and pulled out a clear plastic bag with our last name in black marker across it. I ran my hands over and and gently opened the bag. I reached my hand in and touched the ashes.

When I had thought about ashes in the past, I thought cigarrette ashes. I thought campfire ashes. I wasn't prepared for coarse sand feeling. I wasn't prepared for fragments of bones. I ran the ashes through my hands.

I was touching the only physical remainder of my son.

Intermixed with the ashes was a round, metal circle. I stared at it for awhile, trying to figure out what part of the body it was from. It came to me slowly that it was the snap from his onesie he was wearing in the hospital. The one that said "Thank Heaven for Little Boys." I put it back in the bag when I realized what it was. Up until that point I had secretly wondered if this was really him. But it was. The metal circle from his snap sealed any doubt I had.

There was more ashes than I had expected. We had only been planning on spreading a tiny amount, but we knew we would have enough to take home so we spread a decent amount of them.

Standing at the end of the dock, I looked down to see fishes swimming by. It hit me that I couldn't sprinkle the ashes from the end of the dock because the fish would think they were food. "I don't want the fish to eat Curtis," I tried to joke.
We went to the shoreline instead.

I did the first sprinkle of ashes, then I gave the bag over to Craig. I know you can't see it, but I know where the ashes are in this picture.

After Craig spread some, it was my turn. As the ashes hit the water, Craig took this picture with the light bouncing off of the water...

We both took turns again and all of a sudden I said I had enough, I needed the rest to come home with us. We sat on the shoreline, cried together, and talked to Curtis. We told him how much we missed him, how much we ached for the life he never got to live. We stared at the water for awhile and I told him how sorry I was that I didn't get to bring him home with us. Eventually we packed ourselves and the dog up and made the quiet 3 hour ride home with less ashes than we came with, but left a piece of Curtis at a place that is so special to our family. A place we needed to share with Curtis, on whatever form it took.


gitz said...

Thanks for sharing this with us... I can't imagine what that day was for you. My best friend's oldest daughter died of cancer at 11 and we took photos of them with her and their youngest daughter when she was in the coffin. They had real smiles too. They were so aching inside, but they were proud of their daughter and it's impossible not to smile at that... whatever form she may have been in. I'm glad you have those photos of you with Curtis.

Sally said...

Oh. Wow. This post has left me a bit speechless. I can see why it took you a while to muster the courage to post it. And can I say how magical the light is on the water in that photo. Wow. And while we may not be able to see the ashes in the other photo, I think if I look hard enough at it, I can almost see little Curtis' reflection in the water.
It also strikes me this all happened on August 19, the same day my dear Hope was born. A bittersweet day for us both then xo

Kristi said...

It really is a beautiful story... and I can see why it took mso much to write that.

I'm so glad you posted pics of you and Craig because it really helps putting a face to a story (for me!).

What a lovely day for what you had to do. The lake looks very special from here so I can only imagine how it must be in real life!

Anonymous said...

I cried when I read your post. My daughter was stillborn 14 years ago. I went on to have three healthy children...but it doesn't take away from the pain of her absence. I hope you have a wonderful party for your living child. You deserve to savor that happiness.

Never forgetting Gregory said...

This is incredible. Your pictures and words captured how special that moment must have been for your family. I'm so sorry you lost your precious son.