Speaking of getting things in the mail, Saturday I received Maggie’s ashes via US Postal Service. No ominous music played. No fanfare of horns. No million bells ringing. Just a lone post office employee walking up my front steps with a cardboard box addressed to me in hand. I pondered if he had any inkling of the significance of that little brown package he so precariously balanced on the top of the gate while I signed the return receipt. No doubt he knew little or even cared (which, after all, is what we really want given the number of plain, brown-wrapped packages some people get. You know who you are.) But, regardless, his obliviousness gives me pause. How many times have I been standing in the middle of someone’s emotional crap storm and been blissfully unaware? How did I treat them at that oh-so-delicate moment? Did I make their situation worse or better? Could I get better at spotting those moments and maybe helping? This whole experience has given me so many new questions, so many new perspectives. I definitely have a new set of eyes.
The arrival of the box was unremarkable except in its unremarkable-ness. I wasn’t upset. I didn’t cry. I gently took the box and set it where it now lies, right beside me on my desk where I’m sitting as I type this. I didn’t open it. I’ve touched it maybe six times but all the emotion that I think should be there, isn’t. Or, it is and I’m not ready to face it. Nah, I think I see it for what it is – a box with nothing but the ashes of my sweet angel’s body inside. Nothing more. Nothing less. It is not her nor does it represent her in any way. In fact, it’s a strange artifact in my house not too different than if some stranger were to send me a rock in the mail. I promise I burn with way, way more fire in my heart for any one pair of shoes from her side of the closet. Or any shirt. Or any dress.
It’s freeing, really, this lack of emotional attachment to this box, or rather, the contents thereof, sitting here beside me on my desk. Any emotional umbilical cord would be an additional encumbrance to my life, selfish though in that it’s all about what I need, that I need to remain attached to her so that I may move on. “Remain attached so that I may move on,” I just typed. What a funny and illogical phrase. How can a ship set sail if it stays tied to the moorings at the dock? Interesting, no?
If I were to succumb to the need to associate my memories and love for her to the contents of this box (or her shoes, clothes, toothbrush), it would eventually erode at what was (is) precious about her to me. The process of worshiping the box, the shoes, the clothes would take the place of reflecting on her, the real her. I’d waste energy on protecting these things rather than on investing my time in rebuilding who I am now with her inside my heart. I don’t have time to tend a grave. Life is too short. Besides, why would I want to hang around in a graveyard (where ever that may be) when I can just carry her with me where ever I am, be it dancing, wakeboarding, shooting skeet, playing Frisbee, or just riding my Harley down 183 with tires around my middle. For that truly is where she’d want to be. Not stuck in a box somewhere, even a box sitting beside me on my desk.