Subscribe to Free Healing Emails for Mothers

Into the Sea
Faith & Spirituality, Grief Journey, Losing a Child

Into the Sea

What happens to bits of ash scattered, drained, poured, or shaken into the sea? Are they rolled and tossed as shells and rocks, eventually transformed into tiny grains of sand, indistinguishable from the rest, and then recast as mooring for sea plants or homeland for shoreline creatures? I like to think so.

In the fifteen years since our son’s death, I have scattered and shaken his cremains from the Pacific to the Atlantic, from Ontario to the Florida Keys. Always in small amounts, even teaspoonfuls, so as not to draw attention to myself. But last month, with half an urn left and a trip to the coast on the horizon, I decided it was time to finish the task. And so, except for a small baggie saved in a ceramic jar made by my potter husband and decorated with the night sky our boy loved, I took what I had with me and, over the course of four mornings, swished plastic bags and containers around in the knee-deep ocean.

No one pays much attention to the few other beach walkers at sunrise, but still. Each morning as the darkness dissipated, I waded in, bent toward the water, and dispensed with the contents of my container. Then I stood there, the waves rippling across my legs, and talked to my son. I hope you can see this, but I have no idea. I know that, if you can, you are sorry for putting me to such trouble, but glad to be resting here, in a spot you loved as soon as you could run across the sand.

I no longer feel the excruciating knife through the gut that accompanied my first such ventures. Somehow, I have gotten used to the idea that my child’s body is nothing more than flecks of ash and bone, deposited in places that meant something to him – or, some of them, just to me. It is possible to learn to live, and to live well and with joy, despite the ragged hole in your heart. It is possible to leave ashes in the same tides in which your grandchild will leap and laugh a few hours later.

Perhaps the unseen animals who disappear into small mounds and smaller holes in the sand live among the bodies of the lost. Something of a comforting thought.