Spreading Dave's Ashes - For Reals

I have soooooo much to write about. I feel like my life is so different than it was even two months ago. So, you may be hearing from me a little more often in the coming weeks.  But with as much as I have to write about, this post will be more report-like than outpour-like.  I want to write about yesterday, before yesterday is in the distant past.   

I don't know how long other people hold onto the ashes of their loved ones, but I held onto them for a long time.  Four years and three months, to be exact.  Over the years, I have dished out a teaspoon here and a tablespoon there, while camping or hiking or on birthdays, but I never really could get to the place where I could really let go of them. 

Yesterday, was a GO BIG OR GO HOME day!  Spencer, Leah, Macie and I finally did it.  We spread Dave's ashes. The day had finally come where I felt more uncomfortable thinking about keeping Dave's ashes than I did with letting them go. Perhaps this is happening  about four years too late, but I've learned that with grief, your time table is definitely going to be different than anyone else's, so I make no apologies.  

I always pictured spreading Dave's ashes to be terrifically sad, emotional and dramatic, with a huge element of finality and no turning back. I never pictured this day to be packed with full hearts and big smiles.   

The four of us spent a few days in Pagosa with Dave's parents. It's a wonderful thing to have in- laws that live in one of the most beautiful places on earth.  Dave LOVED that he grew up in Pagosa. Many of his friends experienced that giddiness of Dave upon treating others to an experience in Pagosa or Wolf Creek Ski area. Can I get an amen?  So, spreading his ashes up in that neck of the woods was really the only option. I remembered him saying a couple times that if he ever died, he wanted his ashes to be spread in this meadow by Turkey Creek, which is in the Pagosa area.  I'm pretty sure he got less specific about where he wanted his ashes spread as time went on (it sounds like we talked about it all the time) but maybe I'm just making that up. Needless to say, that area was going to be way to muddy to get to, so we opted for some other locations that were perfect for Dave.  

Our first stop was Treasure Falls. It is a few minutes from his house. We never went there together, because we were usually at his parents house in the winter to ski, of course. Every time we drove by it, and I mean EVERY time, he would say, "There's Treasure Falls. We'll have to stop sometime." Well, now we've stopped. Here are some pictures from Treasure Falls.

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Our next stop was at Wolf Creek. Wolf Creek and Dave Aldridge were like bread and butter . . . they just go together.  If we had brought our skis, we probably would have spread all of his ashes there, but since Spencer, Leah and Macie wanted to have hang out time with Grandma and Papa, instead of ski, I wasn't about to force the ski issue. If you knew Dave, Wolf Creek was one of his "closest thing to heaven," places.  He once skied an 80 inch storm.  I'm sure he'd want me to let you know of this accomplishment, since he did it, just so he could say he did. I sat in the lodge that day, while I watched him sit on the broken ski lift, growing icicles on his five o clock shadow. Wolf Creek was his powdery playground. So, we found a pile of fresh snow and spread some ashes there and then went inside and had a cup of hot chocolate, just like we always did, when we skied there.  

With a few more ashes than I wanted to bring home, we left and decided to look for one more place that said Dave.  We found the perfect spot along the Rio Grande River.  It had red bushes on one side, that Spencer said stood for love and it had snow and rocks and running water and the most beautiful scene in the world.  The kids kept exclaiming how it was the most perfect place for spreading the rest of Dave's ashes. In the water were millions of gold specs and that sealed the deal for the kids. It was a special spot and it will always be. They played, they made snow angels, they climbed, they had reasons for why they were spreading ashes where they did and they smiled and they laughed.

Grief continues to be a peculiar and nutty thing.  I still cry about 80% of the time I tell someone that Dave died, but on a day that I would assume would be full of tears, I didn't squeak out one single tear.  I love the advice I got right in the beginning, to just roll with however I feel in the moment.  I never have to feel how anyone else (or myself) expects me to feel.   Just because there were not tears yesterday, doesn't mean it wasn't meaningful. It was quite the opposite.  It was meaningful, because it full of Dave, full of grace, full of protection, full of contentment, full of memories, full of smiles and siliness, and full of goodness.  

I feel a little lighter today. A little more free. A little more hopeful in the future.  The day reminds me of the backwards economy of God.  Verses in Matthew 5 like,  "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth."  I'm not trying to add to the Bible here, but it felt like my personal little beatitude for the day was, "Blessed are those who let go, for they will be filled."

Christina's Take:

I love this post. It's so real and raw. Life in the midst of grief is never glamorous or tidy. After the funerals and wakes are all adjourned, life in all its awkward limping, begins. That's what you describe. I love that you knew the PERFECT place for Dave's ashes, but that isn't where they ended up getting spread. I love that plan B is okay. I also am thrilled with the conversations you must have had with the kids as you decided on where to spread Dave's ashes. They had to think through fairly extraordinary concepts, like what color and place would best represent the spirit of their daddy. What a lovely trip you took us on.

I've always ALWAYS thought this (and occasionally said it) - Holly, your eyes shine more brightly when there are tears in them. Beauty and pain are important to each other. That's what I see in this moment. Thank you for sharing this. I love you, friend.

 Megan's Take: 

Wow. I'm not sure I can say it any better than Christina did! What an emotional l ride. I am struck by the intentionality with which you embarked on this jorurney with your kids, and their heart-felt engagement along the way. There are no easy answers or bows to tie up all the feelings of love and loss, but this moment captures the hearts of all of you involved. Even and most especially, Dave's. Love that you shared his bad-ass 80 inch skiing accomplishment. May his legacy live on, far into the future. With kids like yours, I have no doubt that it will!