We are approaching the 5th anniversary of Adam’s death. Several weeks ago we gathered as a family at the George Pentland Gardens in Frankston on what would have been Adam’s 35th birthday. It had rained the previous evening bringing a freshness and vitality to the expansive lawns and vegetation. The gardens hold many memories for us of family picnics, relaxing walks, and moments spent with Adam while he was staying at the Acute Mental Health Unit at the Frankston Hospital nearby. We reflected on Adam’s final words and then scattered some of his ashes under the overhanging branches of a tall mature tree that seemed somehow inviting. It now has the added responsibility of being Adam’s tree.
Later this month Julie and I will be flying to New Zealand. One of the reasons for our trip is to spread some of Adam’s ashes on the waters of the Tukituki River where Adam spent many enjoyable hours fly fishing. I have written a reflection ‘River Reunion’ which I’m hoping will be included in a book on Grief to be published later this year. It contains these words,
“We are left with our grief which is real and constant. Like the Tukituki River there are periods when it feels more intense. We don’t think of closure. It is more about assimilation, recognising its presence and acknowledging its power. Grief is never wasted unless it becomes self indulgent. Grief has the power to transform like a turbulent river reshaping the landscape as it relentlessly rushes on toward the sea.”
It is not possible to put restrictions on grief. As a family we feel that we have been given permission to distribute Adam’s ashes now that we have a clear understanding of what it is we want to achieve.
We want to reunite Adam with the places and people that were important to him. We realise that Adam is infinitely more than his ashes and that his spirit lives on. Nonetheless, there is rich symbolism in the union of our physical remains with the natural world – ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
This action has meant a dividing up of his ashes which we have managed respectfully and believe in no way diminishes who he was.
I wrote a poem about Adam’s Ashes in the months following his death. The decisions we have implemented in recent times have brought a completion to the poem and resolved the lingering uncertainties.
There is no coffin buried in the ground
There is no sacristy where peace can be found
There is no epitaph, no thanksgiving, no rite
There are Adam’s ashes, forgotten, not quite.
There is no celebration of a life no more
There is no comfort for hearts at war
There is no joy when the future is mired
By Adam’s ashes, resting at my side.
There will come a time when the way will be made clear
When spirits are whole and memories hold dear
It will be a time of release, a time of letting go
And Adam’s ashes will be returned to a place we know.