Ashes

“All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one’s heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
Cormac McCarthy, The Road    

I picked up Fred’s ashes today. They came in a cherry box inside a cardboard box with his name on the outside, Fred Tremain. I never called him Fred Tremain. It was always Fred Dog or Freddy Boy but mostly just simply Fred.

Margaret called me last week from Wilderness Animal Hospital to let me know they had Fred’s remains, or cremains as I heard them called. I don’t know why but I’ve been avoiding picking them up. Somehow, it felt like the last step, the final act, the harsh reality that Fred’s body is gone for good. I’ve been numb. At work, at home, I feel numb. When my thoughts slip into the emotional memories of my last day or the final minutes with Fred, I quickly brush them away. It seems strange this steady decrease of emotion that’s significantly less each day. Part of me wants to still feel the deep sorrow, to dignify his passing, to hold on. The other side says to move on, to heal, focus on the future.

I saw the box come out and sit on the counter while I waited for Ethel to get her nails trimmed. When it came time for me to go, Beth gently picked up the box and respectfully handed it to me with one arm reaching out in a supportive embrace. The box was heavier than I expected. Tears surprised my eyes and rolled down my cheeks. When I reached the car, I sobbed as I held the box tightly to my chest.

Ethel and I made it home. Back to the nightly routine. Walk, dinner, clean up, check email, go to bed. The box titled Fred Tremain sitting unopened on the counter.

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