It was seven in the morning when we scattered Daddy’s ashes on the mountainside. He requested to be packaged in a cardboard box instead of an urn. “Don’t put me in a fancy vase,” he said once. “Those things’re expensive. Besides, I want you to scatter me.”
Well, cremated ashes don’t scatter. I thought when we turned Daddy loose, something marvelous would happen. Maybe a gust of wind would carry him across the mountains.
He chose the mountains for his resting place. That was where he wanted to be; whether alive or dead. “I’m a Virgo,” he said once. “Virgos love mountains.”
“What’s a Virgo?” I asked.
“Hell if I know, I heard it on television.”
“Well if you’re a Virgo, what am I?”
“You?” He laughed. “You’re a Baptist.”
My daddy took me mountain-camping more than I cared for. Together, we explored Longs Peak, Pikes Peak, Elbert, Crestone, Cold Mountain, Stone Mountain, Blood Mountain, Mount Mitchell, and handfuls more. And whenever we climbed four feet above sea-level, I would turn eggplant-purple and slip into oxygen debt. Which is what happens to Baptists.
At Daddy’s mountainside memorial, we fell silent. We sliced open his plain box – I’ve seen UPS parcels that looked more reverent. There were no gusts of wind from On-High. No music. In fact, Daddy wasn’t even proper dust, he was more like clay. His remains fell seven-hundred feet down the cliffside, tumbling like a brick, then shattered.
“Oh my God.” Mother covered her mouth. “He’s really gone.”
But he wasn’t gone. He was there. In the mountains.
And then I threw his empty box in the trash.