A Day in My Life: Scattering Dad

On a perfect and sunny day in July, my mom, my sister and her husband scattered my dad’s ashes into the ocean.

It was just what he wanted—my dad grew up on Cape Cod and loved the sea. He learned to sail as a child, joined the Navy Seabee’s during World War II, and sailed as an adult whenever he had the chance.

Dad had always been clear that he wanted his body to be cremated, though it took our family 2 1/2 years after his passing to scatter his ashes. Some of the delay was timing, some of it was planning (finding the right place and getting details ironed out), some of it was that no one was quite ready to let him go.

I credit my sister with handling this “errand.” She called ahead to the site and worked out specifics, handled the pick up and transportation of our mom (who is a wee bit frail and wobbly), and made it happen. On the beach, my sister and her husband took a moment to read Dad’s memorial service and say a prayer of gratitude for his life. Later, Mom said that it was a very satisfying day. A day that would have pleased Dad.

I was, and am, so appreciative of my sister for taking care of this family business.

scatteringdad

But . . . to be honest, the entire issue of cremation has been difficult for me. It bothered me on the actual day my dad’s body was being cremated, it bothered me to think his ashes were in a box in a closet in my sister’s house for the past 2 1/2 years. It bothered me to think of scattering his ashes. Cremation was what Dad wanted, but I never would have chosen it for him.

On the day of the scattering, I felt that churned up feeling of grief again. My sister sent pictures of the beach and I couldn’t even look at them. That evening, I had a quiet moment of time with the Lord over this event and sensed a message in return: My dad’s choice of cremation was his last word to point to another reality. To Heaven.

Dad was no longer a part of the material world. He used to say “ashes to ashes and dust to dust.” It’s one thing to say it but it’s another thing to mean it!  As the last part of Dad’s earthly remains were scattered into the ocean, I realized that letting those ashes go was a challenge. Do I truly believe the Bible on this critically important topic of afterlife? I do!

And my dad did.

There’s a second part to that “ashes to ashes” reference Dad used to quote. A note to end on and one that I had forgotten to dwell on.

Life, lovely while it lasts, is soon over.
Life as we know it, precious and beautiful, ends.
The body is put back in the same ground it came from.
The spirit returns to God, who first breathed it (Ecclesiastes 12:7, MSG).

The spirit returns to God, who first breathed it. And that is what makes all the difference.


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About Suzanne

Suzanne Woods Fisher writes bestselling, award winning fiction and non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books. Her interest in the Plain People began with her Old Order German Baptist grandfather, raised in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne's app, Amish Wisdom, delivers a daily Amish proverb to your phone or iPad. She writes a bi-monthly column for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazine. She lives with her family in California and raises puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To Suzanne's way of thinking, you can't take life too seriously when a puppy is running through your house with someone's underwear in its mouth.

Comments

  1. Phyllis says:

    Thank you for this column and your open comments about a very solemn and private time in your lives. Many of your feelings some of us must have felt and may soon deal with. I will share these comments with our family. You have helped me through reading your words. The scriptures are so helpful, for they are truth and they bring peace.

  2. Tanya Leigh Oakes says:

    What a beautifully written post, Suzanne. Thank you for sharing such a personal and deep part of your heart with us. And thank you for respecting your father’s wishes to be cremated even though it caused you pain. As someone that was diagnosed as terminal (a diagnosis I no longer believe) and chose cremation for herself, I know how hard it was on certain family members that disagreed with my choice. I hear the pain in your voice through this post and it echos the pain I’ve heard in their voices.

  3. Faith Posten says:

    Mrs. Suzanne, That had to be a difficult piece to write about your Dad as it was so extremely personal. But you made some very good points which I certainly hadn’t thought of in connection with cremation. In spite of the fact that the Bible states ” . . . from ashes to ashes” I, too, have always struggled with the thought of cremation. But no longer! Thank you for sharing your heart.

  4. Kathie from CA says:

    Thank you Suzanne. My Mom’s ashes from her death of 41/2 years ago are at our home. I know it is time to find a final resting place for them because when she died she was absent from the body present with the Lord she loved and served. Thanks for sharing your heart with us.

  5. Kym Godwin says:

    My mom passed suddenly in 2012 without leaving any arrangements for anything. My kids and I were virtually her only family and we lived 3,000 miles away in Massachusetts (she lived in Washington). We had to make some tough decisions and due to finances cremation was my only option. The decision then had to be made about what to do with her ashes. Like your dad, my mom loved the ocean. My son, who was almost 19 at the time, reminded me that his Nana was with the Lord and that we could be with her anywhere. It was then that we knew what to do…we scattered her ashes in the Pacific Ocean at Ocean Shores, WA at her favorite beach. I struggled so much and put it off until the last day we were there. What happened, however, was so unexpected. Letting her go in the ocean was so freeing…her spirit would always be with us…but her body would span the globe and physically be everywhere the ocean waters touched the land. I feel close to her whenever I’m at beach even though I miss her so much.

  6. Donna Ratliff says:

    Dear Suzanne,
    Oh how my heart can relate, and wants to comfort you. Having respected my mother’s wishes for her remains to be placed at their cabin in Clear Lake, when she died of cancer at age 52 back in 1975, I know what you are feeling. No matter where our loved ones are placed, although we know they are with the Lord and not scattered, and we’ll be reunited one day, it hurts to not have a place to be able to go to place flowers, have moments of honoring them (in my case I can’t go there, for the cabin no longer belongs to our family), My dad passed a few years ago. He was born, raised and died in MA. I was his guardian the last 4 years of his life from here in CA. He had Alzheimer’s and had to be removed from his home where he was born. Although it is possible to go to the cemetery in Woburn, I’ve not been back since his death for family is gone. So, my heart deals with these realities in knowing they remain in our hearts, and no matter where I am or how far removed from burial site, we did as their wishes compelled us to and continue to honor them in our hearts, but there still seems to be that desire to have a place…….. In both situations, I was with my parents as they took their last breath, and will always consider that place and moment in time, as hallowed ground, where the Lord came, took their hands, and welcomed them Home, where their last breath here and first breath their took place. Thank you for sharing – I know it is very personal and I feel your pain, but I want you to know you’ve helped me shed some tears that have long awaited to be released. Interestingly, over the years I’ve had only a few dreams of my precious mom. In those dreams I’ve looked for her but couldn’t find her. It was always that she’d been placed somewhere to heal, but I never knew where and always searching for her in vain. Two nights ago, although I can’t remember any other part of the dream, I know I was with her. Your precious smile that we see in your pictures is testimony of how the Lord has even brought you through these painful years since your daddy passed – The joy of the Lord is our strength. I am praying for you today.

  7. angie (from England) says:

    God bless u

    XOXO

  8. Oh, sweet friend. I feel this with you. Hugs and love to you! <3