We just arrived home after a ten-hour drive back from northern Minnesota, so this will be brief.
Ashley’s grandmother, Ann, passed away at her home in December. Her final wish was for us to bury her ashes there, and with the weather finally warm enough and the ground unfrozen, this was the perfect weekend to conduct our sacred task.
We gathered at Ann’s house on Saturday morning, Ashley and me and her siblings and a few neighbors, for the final time before the house is sold to new owners—a freshly retired couple who are eager to live out their wilderness dream, just like Ann and her husband Larry did.
A special guest turned up as well.
After a lot of reminiscing, and wandering through Ann’s extensive garden, still dormant from the long winter, we trekked a little ways into the woods to find a spot for the ceremony.
The sun was bright overhead and the woods were peaceful, silent except for an occasional light breeze rustling through the trees. We took turns digging the hole. When it was ready, each of the three siblings laid a portion of the ashes in the hole. They did the same with a portion of Larry’s ashes that Ann had kept all these years for this purpose, so that they could be together once again.
At the precise moment that this was complete, a single nuthatch flew into view, perched on the closest tree, and gazed at us, just for a few seconds. Then it flitted away.
Each person said their final goodbyes, we filled up the hole, and when we were finished, a burst of birdsong sounded from somewhere nearby.
We walked slowly back to the house, where we shared a few more memories and made plans to convoke the town for a potluck lunch later in the year, when it’s finally safe to gather everyone. Then, one by one, we got in our cars and drove away.
That’s all I’ve got. Please take care, write back if you can, and I’ll see you next week.