I brought his ashes home with me. They are heavy, and dense, settled inside a large round tube. Sunday, I drove up a scary, winding path to the summit of Monk’s Road, near Glossop, where, on a clear day, you can see all the way to Manchester, and where he took me, the first weekend we spent together, to show me the place he wanted his ashes scattered. It is a beautiful spot, with nutty brown grasses swaying in the wind, surrounded on all sides by his beloved green hills, their patchwork fields bathed in shadow and light. One day, we will make sure his wishes are carried out. I am not yet ready to let him go.
I have made him a little shrine, in the bedroom, with our picture above it, and it is a comfort to me, this cardboard barrel of bones and ash. It is what I have left of the body I loved. In the mornings, I rise, from his side of the bed, still imprinted with the weight of him, my head having rested on his pillows, and I pat the tube that holds him. His dressing gown hangs on its hook at the back of our door, and sometimes I press it to my face, in search of his scent, but it has faded, now, and I can’t remember it.
I try to keep him close to me, to recall his voice, his funny ways, how he sat at the computer with his headphones on, music blaring from them, waving his pen in the air, like a conductor. Once, shortly after he died, I awakened with a start, and rushed to the door of his office, to look for him. It was where I could usually find him, in the early morning hours, if he was not sleeping next to me. He wasn't there. The chair was empty, and the computer screen black.
His computer and chair are with his son, now, and his music system has been dismantled, and placed in a box, for one of his other sons. His clothes, too, are gone, donated to his favourite charity shop.
It is difficult, this step, letting go of his things, passing them on to others, saying goodbye to the constant reminders of his presence in this house. And perhaps I am moving too quickly to do it. Yet he was more than his things, and it is important that some of them go to the people who loved him, so that they, too, can find solace in those reminders.
There are no roadmaps for this thing called grief. It is a private and solitary path, and we trudge clumsily along it, hoping someday to find our way through to another side. It will be a long road. It will be months, perhaps years, before I will be able to awaken in the morning without the immediate recognition of his absence, to leave work and not weep for him on the train ride home, knowing he is not there to greet me, to clamber up the stairs to bed and not panic at the thought of sleeping another night without him. I will walk it, reluctantly, because I must.
I have friends to help me along this road, spiritual friends from the Sangha he loved, who have embraced me and warmed me with their welcome. I have friends in Glossop, who regale me with stories of his antics, who are also suffering from this loss. And I have his family, too. It does not take away this pain. But it lightens the burden a bit, to share it.
The internet is full of grief blogs, and I am sure that my entries here will not reveal any new insights on this journey. Perhaps, instead, my words can bring comfort to the people who knew him, and perhaps we can use them, as I do, to keep him close to us, for just a little while longer.