The Power of Ritual

Two years after the fact, two years beyond unbearable pain with plan in hand, I drove to the tiny town by the lake. I didn’t know these women personally but they knew my spouse. I knew they cared deeply and they offered support. So with her boxed cremated remains and the paper bag of clothes cut from her the day of the accident, we began the ritual.

We formed a small circle around a fire with the intention of letting go, letting go of the bagged clothes that poked at me daily as it sat on my closet shelf. It was easier to burn than I thought. It was relief. I was letting go removing this daily reminder. The ashes set me free. I don’t remember the song hummed by the women, but I remember the comfort.

Then we trekked into the wooded land so I could find a place to spread her ashes. I didn’t know what I was looking for. I was feeling my way to the perfect place to let her go. This was once her land where she built her own house, trekked with her kids, ran with her dogs, and prided herself on its ownership.

I found a stream bubbling with comforting sounds. I was alone as the others fell back to give me privacy. I stood at the edge of the stream and noticed all the small rocks and stones smoothed by the agitating water. The movement of nature. Everything around me existed in harmony. It was a welcome feeling. I held the wooden box and imagined offering the ashes to the water. Did it feel right? I waited. My body answered with a forward feeling. I had permission.

Slowly I opened the lid, untied the plastic bag and let gravity take the ashes into the water. I imagined the ashes would float and sink and the movement would take them away. I was releasing. I said a prayer, closed my eyes and released.

What happened next took my breath away. Shimmering ashes under the water was the reaction I can describe. They sparkled. Some of the shimmering floated on top. More shimmering nestled among the rocks and the glimmering was astounding. I was amazed. Like diamonds. Her ashes came alive in the water glistening beautifully among the rocks and stones. It was a celebratory welcoming home -- my release and her release. I was moved to tears.

I have always coveted the power of nature. Rocks, stones and minerals have a simplistic beauty and steady presence beyond my understanding. I have been drawn to them since childhood, collecting shapes and colors. Stone collecting was one of the first subjects my new spouse and I discovered we had in common.

Mixed with the power of water, Mother Earth transmuted my pain into a comforting memory. I am grateful. The power of letting go released me.

Living in this pandemic, letting go is important. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a birth canal bumping along the tightening edges moving towards something promising. I let go many times in a day using my breath, using my awareness and trusting this journey. I have other choices of worry and concern, but these choices make my journey uncomfortable, tight, excruciating at times and fearful. I breathe, let go and surrender.

The meditative aspect of rocks and stones - Excerpts from Marian Kraus, photographer

“Native Americans viewed rocks as the bones of Mother Earth just like most of us are not surprised to see faces or animals in natural stone formations. They were among those who knew best about the symbolism of stones and rocks.
Steadfast wisdom, enduring perseverance and joyful awe; these are the affects that nature has on us. Yet, somehow we seem to forget this. We walk idly by the very things that remind us of the everlasting and the reliable. We forget that it is the physical world that allows us to survive and thrive. Consider how you might infuse your day to day life with reminders of the building blocks of your life.”

The Peace of Wild Things

by Wendell Berry