When I dipped my hand deep into her ashes, they were cool to the touch, like the beach on a cloudy day, or like a sand table that sits in the shade or in a psychiatrists's office, awaiting a patient, perhaps a young one, to make meaning of their life with small toys by the way they place them in the sand and have them interact.
I brought a handful of ashes out of the deep and narrow wooden box as the priest held it, then walked a few steps from him to under one of the trees in the narrow, beautifully small church garden. I moved my whole arm in the creation of an infinity symbol on the ground with dusty parts of Laurie, its middle crossing just at a small lamp close to the ground; that symbol stayed on the surface of the plants until it rained later that day, I imagine. Then, as infinity does, her ashes sank into the ground with the rain to become a rosemary bush or a Lenten rose, nourishing what grows from them. We all end up somewhere. I'm happy to know where she is, in that garden, a narrow space between two parts of the church building. A shade garden, mostly, lush and in varying shades of green. She is there now, and everywhere.
When we suffer a trauma, like the death of someone we love so dearly, we lose touch with our own bodies for a while, and perhaps sometimes forever, I believe. Moving, but not sensing what is happening around us; "going through the motions" as they say. In leaving the church, I felt I was leaving someone behind and turned to look, saying aloud, "Where's Laurie?" and recognizing a moment later what I had done. We will be looking for her the rest of our lives.
I sat in the reception hall, eating a plate of fruit that Patricia kindly got for me, because I felt a little faint and dizzy, tired from the energy it took to get to and through the eulogy I had just spoken, and from not sleeping the night before very well, tossing, tossing, as I have since my heart attack. And from not eating breakfast. All the signals of preoccupation. And as I ate, I saw Laurie's ashes had ridden with the wind onto the left thigh of my pants and were still on my hands. I quietly took notice of an ashen fingerprint on a ripe, ripe strawberry just before I ate it. I took her with me the rest of the day wherever I went, as her infinity symbol was watered from the heavens.
Grief is meant to be embodied, not intellectual, our arms in ashes up to the elbow, if we want. Grief is to be felt, not just explained or compartmentalized. People deserve a spectacle at their leaving. Laurie deserves a spectacle. But for the moment, my quiet, unspoken, and unrecognized infinity symbol would have to do, as we were moving on to the reception, the wake, the brunch, all of which support community in a time of trauma, and defer the sobbing.