Today I will spread the last of Hook’s ashes.
In the movies when a person does this, it’s made to seem as though ashes are but a cup full maybe two. The reality is that a human body cremated produces more than four liters of ashes. I only know this because I dropped off four, one liter Kool-aide bottles — one lime-colored, one orange, one red and one blue — to the funeral home for the transport of Hook’s remains over a year ago. He would have appreciated knowing I hadn’t wasted money buying a fancy urn. And, the plastic bottles could be and have been recycled which would have pleased him just as much.
The blue bottle was taken to Trinidad where Allan was spread on a collecting trail he frequented in the Caura Valley, and on the grounds of Asa Wright Nature Center, and finally in the rainforest of Brasso Seco. Hook loved everything about Trinidad especially the people and they had loved him back, appreciated him, understood his “mamaguy.”
The orange bottle was spread in the firefly meadow, where Allan had taken me at the end of our first nature walk and where I began to fall in love with him.
The red bottle was taken to Bastrop and spread in a family cemetery where a grandmother and a great grandfather are buried. When Allan and I had the ash discussion before he died, we agreed that a portion of his ashes would be spread where mine would eventually be.
“Are you sure?” I asked. “You’ll be the only white guy in the cemetery, you know.”
“That’s how I like it, baby,” he said.
When I took him out there, all I could think to say was, “Hi Grandmother, I know we’ve never met but well, this is my husband, Allan. Please show him around.”
That was exactly one year ago, wicked cold just like today with the only difference that sheets of rain were pouring down. I hadn’t wanted to drive out to Bastrop in the rain but I’d wanted to honor Allan on his birthday. The rain ended up being my good fortune because after I’d covered my grandmother’s plot multiple times, the white remains looked more than a little conspicuous.
Most of you already know how Allan made it into Australia which was not in one of the Kool-aid bottles. But this morning, I’ll pour from the lime-colored bottle and spread around the Mexican Oak which Hook planted in our backyard to honor the year we were married. This final release is meant only as a pause and reflection of November 17th. And on September 3rd of every year, I’ve no doubt I’ll either openly cry or shed a tear and eventually over time, maybe it’ll just be the welling up of water in my eyes.
This Time Last Year
Last week as I was driving down Manchaca in Austin, a memory swooped in and I almost had to pull off the road to catch my breath. I shivered as I felt for the briefest of seconds that familiar abandonment and aloneness in the world. 2013 and most of 2014 had been a time suspended from living, what some might call the walking dead. I shake my head now as I recall how unbelievably dark my world had become. Until Hook had died, I had never felt deserted, rudderless, and such an unwilling participant in my own life. As I continued to drive, the feeling eventually subsided but it was the perfect reminder of how far I have come in these last 14 months.
Since the anniversary of Allan’s death, my memories ricochet against this time last year not unlike how the entire first year of grief was lived. Except, in all of those memories, Hook was still alive albeit sick and dying. It was, quite frankly, a time of near insanity. Now, my recollections are about how I grieved, how I honored, and what I learned and am still learning.
I wear my rings separated now, the wedding band on the right hand while the engagement diamond is on the left. I tell myself that I am “emotionally engaged” and therefore unable to remove the ring. I cannot imagine a time when I would ever stop wearing these rings, but then I could not have imagined a time when I would fall asleep at night without silently crying into my pillow. Those nights occur less frequently now.
In the last month of Allan’s life, I asked him for a song request every day then I would post a link to the song on my personal Facebook page. One of his requests was Joe Ely’s version of Live Forever. I think when someone truly loves you, you live forever, maybe not here but somewhere.
(lyrics by Billy Joe Shaver; sung by Joe Ely)
I’m gonna live forever
I’m gonna cross that river
I’m gonna catch tomorrow now
You’re gonna wanna hold me
Just like I’ve always told you
You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone
Nobody here will ever find me
But I will always be around
Just like the songs I leave behind me
I’m gonna live forever now
For the rest of 2014, this blog’s name will remain Hooks Down Under. Beginning in 2015, the name will change to Writings By Rosemary. Between now and then, I’d like to share some seriously funny memories about Allan so we can laugh together instead of crying together.
Until then …