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.
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.