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Beach scene
Jul 1, 2019

The Spreading of Ashes

A difficult task that turned beautiful and somehow ended up being peaceful.

I fiercely hug the urn while trying to stare into the ocean, even though I can barely see as the water in my eyes has now become a steady flow of tears… How to say goodbye? And can I say goodbye? Do I want to say goodbye?

My intellect knows to let go but my silly heart is going to miss that part of me that my friend touched.

I realize my manager said it best, “With each death, we lose a part of ourselves.”  

I am crying for the loss of him and the loss of knowing that I will never ever hear his voice, his laughter, or see the smile that was reserved for me. It is all over, gone. And all I am expected to do is to let go and keep my promise to him.

Phew, more difficult than I thought, that is for sure. Up till now, I had been in motion, always doing something. Getting the death certificate translated, traveling, by plane then by car. Whatever it was, I was busy. Now, this is the last task, to spread the ashes with a beautifully set intention for the friend that is lost.

I know why I am crying. I feel that if I let go of the ashes, there will be no more… no more friendship, no more of anything… I realize the burden and the enormous emptiness of having to let go. Like the sound a book makes when you've finished it and you smile because it touched you deeply. But you can still feel the story, and so I realize I will carry the friendship in my heart and in my memory. With shaky legs, I walk through the sand and start talking to him that we are at his favorite spot in the world and that it is time for me to be the last person to touch him and to set him free.

Suddenly, my movements are not shaky any longer, I take the urn and open the small part on top so that I can look inside. My eyes well up instantly again. Oh gosh, I have become a stupid cry baby.

While looking inside the urn, I think, "That’s all that is left. He’s gone already, Gabriella." I give myself a stern talking to. "All you need to do is set him free so that he can fly."

And with that beautiful thought, I look up at the sun setting over us and the wide blue sky and say out loud “There you go, Claudio, fly!” No more pain, no more being confined to a hospital bed, no more worries. Freedom. While I spread the ashes, I repeat the names of his two children, his stepdaughter, and his two grandchildren and tell him we all loved him.

He is finally the free spirit he was meant to be!

A short epilogue.

It is one thing to promise something and another when you have to go through each emotion to fulfill someone’s last wishes… This was a total first for me… The promise was simple enough, you would think: Travel with the ashes of my best friend from the hotel in Brittany, France, with the TGV to Paris, and then another TGV under the channel to London, and then one night in London and the next day from London to Chicago. Once there, 1 week later, after a bit of jetlag and rest, a car drive of nearly 2000 miles from the Midwest by car to California. You can imagine that this in itself is very strange indeed.

When I started the drive, I had put the urn in the trunk between my other stuff and made sure it could not fall over. But I was barely 40 minutes out and I abruptly burst into tears and parked the car at the side of the highway. I knew that I had to get the urn. I placed it on the passenger seat and then I knew we could make the drive together in a country he so loved. The drive then became a good moment for me to do this for him.

Last but not least, after it was all said and done, and I dropped my daughter back to her husband (she had accompanied me during the spreading of the ashes) and the moment I drove off, I looked at the passenger’s seat where once the urn sat and burst again into tears. Now, I have only one task left… for me to set myself free of the overwhelming grief and sadness of losing my best friend.

Setting my friend free; learning to let go.