Thursday, March 30, 2017

In the Palm of His Hand

My father passed away eleven years ago in March. One of his wishes was to have his ashes spread in his favorite lake where he fished with my sister and brother in his little fishing boat, taught his grandsons the craft of fishing, spent time with my mom, and hung out with his best friends.

The bulk of his ashes, while taken out for examining from time to time, remained in his room since he was gone, none of us willing to let him go. However, each of his three children took a smidge of his ashes. My brother brought his to my father's favorite walking path along the Appalachian Trail, my sister brought her ashes to the Irish Sea. I keep mine in a little medicine bag, a leather pouch I keep on my altar and sometimes wear around my neck.

This past Saturday, on his seventy-seventh birthday, and two days before his eleventh anniversary of leaving this earth, I took my father's ashes to his final resting place.

I wasn't sure what to expect, but I found a little tributary that lead to the lake, in a private spot adjacent to the public beach where I swam as a child. There the crystal clear water trickled down from miniature waterfalls; it felt peaceful.

He was a passionate Irishman so I had prepared a ceremony for my father that included reading one of his favorite Irish prayers. I also played three of his favorite Irish songs, leading with "Amazing Grace," as I placed the ashes in the water. I sent along with him a personal note I scribed onto birch bark, a yellow feather in honor of the poem about a little yellow bird he regaled me with as a child, a 1940 "wheat penny" (he collected them, and this was his birth year,) and one of my baby teeth, I was his firstborn.

When I placed the ashes in the water I was amazed how beautiful they looked as they flowed, then swirled around, and finally settled, tiny bone fragments resembling seashells, on the tributary bed. It was a powerful and moving experience. It changed me. It brought closure but sealed our bond. I know he is at peace, and I know he watches over us.

Here is  the ceremony captured in some photos and short video clips.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.