Dust to Dust

The man flung the dust into the waves. The wind caught it and whipped it into a big pattern in the air. It was poetry.

Sometimes when they cremate people they put them in cardboard boxes. At the crematory, we signed a release form and got a hundred-pound box in return.

This suited Daddy fine. He thought fancy urns were ridiculous.

“When I die,” he said once. “Don’t keep me around, collecting dust. Turn me loose, let me be with the Lord.”

After he died, he was anything but loose. He came tightly packed in what looked like Priority Mail. We kept him in the laundry room for a few months. I sat beside him carrying on one-sided conversations.

He didn’t have much to say.

He passed during the worst possible time of year. It was football season—weeks before the World Series. I listened to games on a pocket radio, sitting beside his cardboard mortuary.

“Touchdown,” I’d say.

He’d agree.

Eventually, we scattered Daddy in the mountains. Only he didn’t scatter. His remains were too compressed. They stuck together like a gray brick.

There were no dramatic wind gusts. No orchestras. He fell seven-hundred feet like old mud, then crumbled.

And that’s how it happened. I was supposed to set him free, but I didn’t. His ashes might’ve been loose, but I kept him around for years. I brought him along for fishing trips, dates, weddings, barbecues, and baseball games.

Because there were few things worse than watching baseball alone.

Anyway, last week my wife and I walked the beach. I saw a man and his family having a funeral near the surf. He held what looked like an elaborate coffee pot. People stood in a semi-circle.

Strangers along the shore quit walking when they got close. Folks folded hands and bowed heads. We did the same thing. There must’ve been ten of us.

The man flung the dust into the waves. The wind caught it and whipped it into a big pattern in the air. It was poetry.

Some folks get all the luck.

The man embraced a woman—his wife, maybe. They cried. Most people kept their heads down. My allergies started acting up. My wife asked if I was okay.

“Pollen’s bad this time of year,” said I.

The thing is, it’s been a long time since Daddy left. I’m an adult now. I have arthritis in my feet, a mortgage, a pair of reading glasses, and I can’t eat pizza past five.

But one thing’s remained the same. I’ve kept a tight grip on him. The good, the bad, and the repulsive. I guess what I’m trying to say is:

Daddy, you’re missing a good World Series this year. But I don’t mind watching it alone.

I’m ready now.

Go be with the Lord.


  1. Lynn Fanelli - November 1, 2016 2:55 pm

    God uses you young man!

  2. Susie Munz - February 9, 2017 5:58 pm

    It’s really hard to let go, and even harder to move on, but it has to be done.

  3. Wesley blackmon - April 3, 2017 1:56 pm

    Damn good story and writing

  4. Linda Lyberg - April 3, 2017 2:24 pm

    As I write this, my mama is sitting here beside me in her varnished wooden chest. It fits nicely on a shelf. Still can’t bear the thought of letting her go completely. It gives me comfort, and that’s what she would want.

  5. Cindy Simmons - April 3, 2017 5:28 pm

    While my Mom was not a hurricane victim, she died 4 days after from complications due to not be able to get treatment from the mess katrina (which I will not capitalize because she is the evil step daughter of Camille). We were not able to have a funeral for several days as there were no funeral home avaliable and things were pretty chaotic. I wanted to have Mom cremated, my other two sister didn’t, I am the middle sister soooo we all know what that means. My Mom was stored in a Dole Banana refrigerated truck until the funeral homes could get back in business so to speak. She actually would have gotten a kick out of that because she had the best sensor of humor . I think if we would have had her cremated she would still be with me also, I get it…I would have fought those two sisters for her and it wold have been in my time!~

  6. Beverly - April 3, 2017 5:56 pm

    You are inspiring me …..

  7. George Buchanan - April 3, 2017 6:40 pm

    Again, Sean you have me testy eyed! Thanks for sharing your stories.

    • George Buchanan - April 3, 2017 6:41 pm

      Teary eyed

  8. Jeff Sparks - April 3, 2017 6:44 pm

    I am retired police officer and I want to be cremated and my cremains (absent my metal hip and knee) be loaded into 21 shotgun shells. Then after a memorial service at my church have a ceremony at a beautiful pond my dad built with his front end loader have seven officers fire three volleys of 12 gauge shotgun rounds over the pond. Then have someone play taps.

  9. Debbie - April 4, 2017 1:19 am

    Services (& burial) for my father-in-law’s ashes will be this coming Saturday. No free-flying for him! He liked the idea of dust to dust, but, also a marker in a cemetery that showed the world he passed through it, too. 🙂


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