Dust to dust
We scattered my Grandad's ashes on Friday. The vicar said some words for the few family members present, and then my dad poured the contents of the cremation urn into the small block of soil that had been cut into the turf.
The event was low-key - we'd already said our goodbyes at the funeral, after all. No fuss, no further ceremony to close the chapter of his life. Just a few quiet moments reflection.
It was strange seeing the dust that made up what had once been my grandad's body. As the urn was emptied, wisps of ash, caught in the early-evening sunlight, sparkled like his spirit; whirling eddies, picked up by the breeze, drifting across the graveyard. It was quite beautiful. The dappled twilight, the sounds of the nearby river, birds singing all around.
Now I'm not a religious or spiritual man, not in any way. I believe that Man has his propensity towards faith - faith in anything he cannot understand or easily confront and his belief in the unbelievable - hardwired into him genetically in the same way as violence and aggression are also hardwired in. My own "faith" is backed by science, and I feel that I can see the belief of others in the supernatural (of any sort) for what it is - an evolutionary advantage that has seen Homo Sapiens Sapiens rise above all of the other hominid species, succeeding where other manlike creatures have failed. Through community, through shared awe, through society. I believe that this self-protective mechanism is where mankind gets its most unappealing and unfortunate traits - racism, xenophobia, religious intolerance. Thankfully it evidently also provides much strength, nurturing kindness and support and community. Its just a shame that 21st Century society hasn't progressed far enough to fully embrace humanism, to give people the power to care because people are people. But I digress. Although I feel that I am correct in my lack of faith, other people - members of my family, my grandad - would equally feel that I am wrong. And we all must work within the parameters we're given.
Whatever you believe in, with this final act, the scattering his ashes, this wonderful man was laid to rest, and I felt the shudders of his passing so deeply in my soul, if I truly did believe in the soul.
Wisps of a great man, blowing in the breeze, returning to the earth. His memories live on in our hearts, our memories, our stories. And when my generation is dead and gone, his atoms will still live on in the grass and the flowers, the insects, the birds and those that prey on them, and in people just like him or me. He will be part of the soil, the nutrients, the river, the sea, the clouds, and the rain.
And one day far from now, as we all were sourced from stardust, then stardust he will again be.
Thinking now about my own inevitable death, it's a strange realisation that it excites me so much to think that my constituent elements will one day be returning to the lowest levels of the ecosystem. In the same way that I feel a heady thrill from the simple act of dropping a clipped bud or a fruit or berry far from its parent plant's habitat, the thought that I will one day merge with and affect this beautiful thing called nature provides me with an unusual feeling of joy and comfort.
But then, I guess that's not so strange. There's nothing to fear in death.