Dad, I’m not sure if I can explain how upset I am that you want your ashes spread to sea. I’m not sure if I, right now, as Mom squeezes my hand the hardest it’s ever been squeezed, and Jimmy, Jeffery, and Jack, being the strong men they are, hold their tears with such a force that their eyes barely glisten in the light from the sunset. That I won’t dart to the priest, grab you, and run as fast as I can. That I will be able to control myself. That I will allow your final wish to come true. Because even though it’s what you wanted, I think it’s so unfair.
It is unfair.
You claimed you wanted to be free, which I understand, and you’ve always loved this spot at the beach, even when you were a child playing along the shore. But, I can’t help but think about where you’re being laid to rest. The ocean. A mystery too large for even the most accomplished of experts to comprehend. It’s made with thousands of insolent creatures that will violate your remains, or the millions of other souls who’ve requested the same “burial.” They’ll be mixing in with you as if they were someone I loved so dearly. I can’t imagine looking at strangers while trying to see you. The waves churn the water in an infinite rotation, meaning one day you’ll be here, and the next you’re gone.
We’re praying now.
Mom is squeezing my hand tighter.
In a coffin, or even in an urn, you’d be somewhere close to me--to all of us. Perhaps I’m just a visual person. I can’t see the ocean and know that you’re with me. On a visit to your grave or to the living room, and when I think of a memory that I’ll never laugh with you about again, and I reach that point of streaming tears as I look down at the tombstone or up to the mantle and say to myself, “Here lies my father,” it won’t mean anything, because here lies so many things. Too many. It isn’t personal. Instead it’s: “He’s here somewhere.”
The priest says, “Who’s the one who’ll do it?”
Jack is finally breaking because of it. His knees are in the sand, ruining his tux, and the others are trying to get him back on his feet. Now, Mom is bawling again. When Jack, the oldest of us, your first born, cries, something terrible has happened. If glue melts, it all falls.
Mom looks at me after I speak. She too knows my feelings, so it may be shock, or pure suspicion about my intentions. My confidence in my decision is wavering as I approach you.
But don’t worry, Dad. I’ll do it.
You feel cold in my hands and I can’t help but think about the waters where you’ll go, and wish again that you’d picked somewhere warm at least. The hardest part of it all though, is letting you go.
The tide brushes my feet as I sprinkle the last of you. Then recedes.
I realize you’re gone.