The Other End of Sunset

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Final Kindness

You could be my silver springs
Blue green colors flashing
I would be your only dream
Your shining autumn, ocean crashing
--Fleetwood Mac

Well, I did it. Last weekend, SL, my BF, and FiP went on a road trip. Along with our dogs, we piled into the (hybrid) SUV, and drove about 3 hours. We left about 11am, and by 3pm had scattered the last of Jeanne Michelle Russell’s ashes.

// Side note: FiP was given that moniker by someone else, and I use it here in homage. It is not an OtherEnd original. //

Jeanne passed away on June 23rd. Two days later, I left for Europe on a business trip. I think I returned on June 30th or so. Jeanne’s service – which she planned, in exquisite detail – was held that Sunday (July 2nd). On July 4th, I got my tattoo in her honor. On July 5th, I picked up her ashes from the funeral home, and started driving my BF to her house in that lovely city in the Southwest, along with what (was) Jeanne’s car, and now belonged to my BF.

It’s remarkable how few ashes come back. I mean, JR was teeny – she was maybe 125 pounds at her height, and around 100 at the end, and maybe 5 foot 6 inches, in heels – but she wasn’t THAT teeny. She came back in a little brown plastic box, maybe 5 inches on a side, covered in “Biohazard” labels.

Really, she was sarcastic, but I never thought of her as a biohazard.

The box rode in the back seat of my BF’s jaguar all the way to BF’s house. JR was pretty quiet, actually. Didn’t complain much, wasn’t bothered by the radio selection, nor by how fast I drove. Was a pretty easy commute from that perspective.

Jeanne wanted to be scattered about in four places. No, I won’t tell you where they are.

To do the scattering, I had to get to her ashes. To get to the ashes, I had to open the box.

That was a remarkable undertaking. I sat in my BF’s front yard, with a screwdriver and a kitchen knife. I used the kitchen knife to cut the labels, and the screwdriver to pry ruthlessly at each seam in the box, until I found one that gave way. I had no idea what would be inside – maybe just a pile of Jeanne, or… well, I didn’t know.

So I opened it outside. I didn’t want to get Jeanne all over my BF’s house. That felt rude somehow.

Inside the box was a sheet of paper with her name, and some numbers, and a reminder that human ash is a biohazard. Good god, it’s ash – there’s nothing hazardous left. And, by the way, she wasn’t a number, she was a beautiful woman. The paper was wrapped around a clear plastic bag, like you might get a fish in from a store. The opening of the bag was wrapped in a tight little knot, and then bound up with two different rubber bands AND a metal clip.

Man, they really didn’t want JR to escape from the bonds of death. She had already escaped from the bonds of life, did they think a few rubber bands would keep her in?

The bag weighed maybe a few pounds. I could carry it easily.

Anyway, I bought a box of zip-close plastic bags. The one-quart size, with the plastic things that you slide across to seal the bag. I wasn’t going to trust in the whole “yellow plus blue make green” thing. I, too, wanted to bind Jeanne’s ashes.

I opened the bag, and ran my hands through the ash. It was so fine, it was smooth. Like the nicest sand you have ever seen, and nothing like the sand you see at beaches. There was nothing solid, at all, that remained of my girl.

I can hear you thinking. It wasn’t gross. It was just Jeanne.

She wanted to be put into four different places. So, she needed to go into four bags. I couldn’t figure out how to do it myself, so I asked my BF for help. She held the baggies, I held the big bag of ash, and it all worked. I didn’t get any on my BF. I was uncharacteristically neat.

I did have a little anxiety attack. How much to spread in each place? Tactically, I was going to fly home, and I wasn’t sure the TSA would let me through security theatre with human ash in a plastic bag in my luggage. So, I wanted to take less home.

Right, don’t divide her into an even amount. Anyway, all this foolishness aside, I ended up with four bags. One large one, two moderate ones, and one little teeny one.

The large one was scattered first. The next day, in fact. And then both of the medium sized ones a couple of days later, with a 3 hour drive between each bag. The fourth sat in my closet until last weekend.

In each case, I spent time making sure she wasn’t too close to rushing water, and was shielded from the direct sun, and had a nice view. I don’t want her to spend eternity annoyed about the sun in her eyes – she’s not wearing a hat, after all. She’s in lovely spots.

And so it comes at last. The anniversary of my loss. Well, a week or so later, because I was traveling, but still, work with me here.

It was time to let the last part of her go. I can’t hold on to her physically, but I still have her essence. So the four of us went to scatter her. The three of my compatriots stayed at the bottom of the hill, with the dogs, so I could be alone with her. But I never felt alone. I felt her, and I felt them, as I chose her final spot.

Afterwards, they took a photo of me, holding the bag that she was in. I look terrible. I'm about to cry, and I look puffy, and generally like a weirdo. But I thought a picture was appropriate.

...the sound of my voice will haunt you
--Fleetwood Mac

Someone said to SL, recently, how impressive it is that SL can “be so supportive”. The subtext was “wow, you are listening to your boyfriend talk about his love for another woman”. That’s true. It is amazing.

She is amazing.

So, you may ask, what is the final kindness? It wasn’t scattering her.

It was SL, and BF, and FiP, going with me, only to let me go the last few yards alone. It was their joking about her, and me, and distracting me. It was FiP holding my dog who was hurt until she slept on his lap. It was BF toasting Jeanne in the kindest way I’ve ever heard. And it was SL, telling me that she got out of the trip what she wanted – because I got out of it what I wanted.

I don’t deserve such kindness. From FiP – thanks for coming up and being … well… for being you. You are an amazing man.

To BF. Jeanne loved you more than you can know. You were there at all four scatterings. I could not have done this without you. And for the toast that brings tears to my eyes even now. And most of all to SL. For loving me, all my faults aside, and this blog aside, and seeing me for what I could be, not just what I am.

I hope I was kind to Jeanne during her life. I love her, even in death. Love doesn’t die.

But kindness is from the living, to the living. And I also love the living.

Thank you all for the kindness.