Spreading Ashes


I carried him, cradled him in my arms, all the way to our private beach.  It was his favorite place to go.  He loved the sun, and the feel of hot sand under his feet.  He found the burning torment of hopping across hot sand on the hottest day of summer to be an adventure. “Today the blazing sands of Rehoboth, tomorrow walking across hot coals!”  Then, he would throw his head back and laugh a hearty, belly shaking laugh. The joke never got old – to him. But that was his nature; jovial, optimistic, and carefree, to the day he died.

I didn’t want to release his ashes. I wanted to keep him near me. We were always very close. I told him things that most girls would not share with their fathers.  He knew about my first kiss, I told him when I was thinking about having sex.  He took it pretty well. He had to walk me through my first period.  He had “the talk” with me.  Actually, I had the talk with him.  I demonstrated how a condom worked and everything.  He was beet-red and sweating throughout the entire conversation. But, he felt better knowing I knew how use protection properly. I didn’t have much choice but to tell him everything. There were no women in the family I could talk to. My father had no siblings, no immediate relations.  Grandpa died of pancreatic cancer when I was a toddler and grandma died of a broken heart months later.  My mother’s mother would have nothing to do with us.  She blamed daddy for “ruining” her daughter.  She disowned my mother and never communicated with daddy and me.  She didn’t like my dad because he was 15 years older than my mom and already once divorced when he got my mom pregnant.  Mom was just 19 when she had me.  They got married 3 months before I was born.

My mother walked out on me and my dad when I was nine. There was no reason, at least no reason I understood.  She said she needed to “find herself.” She had been on that journey for seventeen years.  She and daddy did not divorce. The just lived apart.  She kept in touch.  Daddy told me once that they were still in love, and loved each other very much, but mom just couldn’t deal with being “in a box.”  She told me during one of her phone calls that she left because she didn’t get to do the things young people needed to do.  She told me that she needed to go out into the world and explore and live.  I’m still not sure what that means and why having and raising a child and was not enough of a life for her. Why wasn’t I enough reason for her to stay?

Releasing his ashes meant that he would be gone forever. I clutched the urn close to me and took a breath. He was the one I gave Mother’s and Father’s Day cards. He was the one who wiped my tears, kissed scraped knees and made my prom dress. My face was wet with tears and he wasn’t here to wipe them or comfort me anymore.  All I had left in this world was my mother, and she was a stranger to me.  I said that to my father one day when he asked me if I wanted to stay with her one summer.

“I don’t know her, I don’t want her, I don’t need her. She’s a stranger to me,” I told him.  He yelled at me. “That is your mother. She’s not a stranger! I don’t care how long she’s been gone, or even if she never comes back again, you will not disrespect her like that ever again! Do you understand me?”

I nodded my head, but I couldn’t speak. I was crying. He never yelled at me like that before. He pulled me close to him and let me sob. Then he said, “If I’m not here one day, she is all you have in this world. I know she’s not here when you need her, but she will be one day. Just love her. Love her because she is your mother and the only other person in this world who will take care of you if I’m not here.” He didn’t send me to stay with her, though.  He knew there was truth in what I was saying.

She came to the memorial service today. Here I am, twenty-six years old, and she came back, finally ready to take her place in my life, and I have no idea where to put her.  But, I remembered what my dad said. She’s my mother. If she didn’t know how to be a mother, she still had time to learn how to be a good grandmother. I have eight months to get her acclimated to the idea.

In the meantime, I need to let go of what was left of my father’s body in order to make room for my mother’s presence in my life. I stood at the edge of the water. It was cold. I opened the box that held his ashes, and carefully shook his remains into the tide, and watched as the water swept him away from me.

Copyright 2013 Nike Binger Marshall

153 thoughts on “Spreading Ashes

    1. Thanks Allan! This is actually a fictional piece. I’m glad I never had to deal with any of the things this character went through!

  1. It was like reading poetry. Deep and blue. However I believe the ashes are now eternal forever riding in the water whereas if interred they would not be out there everywhere. Your dad is still there and here and everywhere and you are his living legacy. Sincerely, Barry

      1. You had me. I was moved guess I am old and sentimental. But on the other hand the writing was that good. I have written a couple of pieces like that. Let me know what you think.

  2. This is beautiful. When my father died, I didn’t want to let go of his shirts…so I made a quilt from his button down shirts.
    My sister just died a few weeks ago.
    Your lovely post has brought tears to my eyes.

    1. Hi Valerie. I’m glad that this piece spoke to you. My condolences to you and your family on your sister’s passing. Be well!

  3. I understand the bond you had with your Father – I was most certainly a Daddy’s girl. I lost him 10 years ago but still take time to talk with him, feel his presence. My Mother passed 5th September 2013 and I have to let her go to her beloved husband. Knowing they are together again helps me cope with the grief. Know that their physical presence has gone but spiritually they stay with you forever.

    1. Mandy, I’m glad to still have my father around, and it’s great that you still take those moments to feel his presence. I’m very sorry to hear about your mother’s passing. My condolences to you and your family.

    1. Thank you Tamberrino! I was excited when I saw that I was Freshly Pressed. The response to this post has been amazing! 😀 Do come again!

    1. Hi Steve! The character in this story has certainly been through a lot, and has quite a bit of healing ahead of her. Thank you so much for your comments!

    1. Tara-Jean this is a very emotional story, but as huge as this character’s loss was, there is hope! Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

      1. I wrote a short piece on a similar theme a while ago.
        http://tomorysworld.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/the-box/ prompted by my Step Mother talking about my Dad’s ashes. She is deciding between letting them go from The Eiffel Tower in Paris or throwing into the sea at Sidmouth, a small seaside town in the south of England. I then tried to think about what I would do should my wife die before me.

      2. I just read that piece, Tom. It’s beautiful and really makes you think about ‘life after.’ Thank you for sharing!

    1. Rachel, I had to do a little research on the Liebster Award. I never heard of it before. Thank you for the nomination and visiting my blog!

  4. Wow. Very well written. i will often skim down a Freshly Pressed and kept trying to do that with yours, but I found myself needing to go back and read it more closely. It’s lovely.
    Congrats on the FP – you deserve it!

  5. I realise that this is a fictional piece but the situation being described struck home very close for me and my own daughter. I was left to raise her myself when she was hardly a two year old. She started her first day of kindergarten a few weeks ago. I couldn’t help but consider my own mortality when reading this. Very nice piece.

    1. When you have to parent alone, regardless of the circumstance, it really gives you perspective. The story of the single mom has been told a thousand times over, but single dads are really special! I’m sure you and your daughter have a great bond, Beal. Thank you for your comments! Be well (for you and your daughter!)

    1. Shanna, every time someone makes that comment, I do a fist pump! If It made you believe that this was really someone’s life, then I told the story properly! Thank you so much for your comments!

  6. ~ A very honest and intimate post. Although the post seems a bit sad, it brought a smile to my face and a gentle reminder that there will come a time when we have to let go yet their memories stay with us. Congrats on being FP! Cheers! – Bliss, The Lurker’s List

    1. Thank you! This is actually a flash fiction piece. My father is alive and my mom is well rooted in my life! 🙂 I’m glad that this piece moved you, Moodsnmoments!

      1. oh hell, i just went back and noticed that this was fiction but somehow i was lost reading it, so much that i forgot it was fiction. God bless your family and good wishes.

      2. No worries! You aren’t the first to think this is an autobiographical piece. Your comments let me know that I’m telling the story properly! 🙂

  7. Beautifully portrayed, reminds me of reading Maya Angelou’s memoir this year Mom & Me & Mom, she had to accept her mother back into her life and it wasn’t easy. But oh she writes with such compassion and forgiveness from the so wise eighth decade of her life.

    1. Mom & Me & Mom Is on my “to read” list! I LOVE Maya Angelou! Have you ever listened to her speak? I love to listen to her! She chooses her words so deliberately and perfectly! As sad a tale as Spreading Ashes is, there is also are also the elements of hope and forgiveness. Thank you so much for your comments Claire! I’m glad you enjoyed the story!

      1. I have only listened to short snippets of interviews, and on the review I wrote on my blog here at Word By Word about her latest book, there is a link to a short interview with the BBC entitles Learning To Love My Mother and her comment about just love the children is heartbreakingly wonderful. Spreading Ashes has the making of a wonderful novel, if you were so inclined, but if you write like that, I imagine you have many more ideas for stories as well, just keep writing, you know how to touch hearts.

  8. Wow, that was very touching. It reminds me of me and my daughters conversations about her mothers role in the event I am not here anymore. I am a single dad with 2 kids and my daughter says the same thing about her mom.

    1. Wow. MecXue, I’m sure it’s a challenge all the way around. Few people talk about the challenges single dad’s face, especially when raising girls. Don’t give up on those conversations! Your daughter will get it. Thank you for your comments!

    1. Thank you Molygay! This is actually a fictional tale. These things didn’t happen to me, but I’m glad you enjoyed the story!

      1. Thank you so much! I don’t how it happened, but I’m grateful for exposure! I’ve enjoyed the feedback and am looking forward connecting with so many new people! This has been a great weekend!

  9. This would be a great lead into a coming of age novel about a young single mom and where she drew her strength. Very well written. I already want to read the rest of the story.

  10. Nike, your story resonates so much with me and my experience with my father. My mom never left and I am still very close to her. But I moved in with my dad and my step-mother when I was fourteen. My dad was my rock and we had such a close relationship. 2 1/2 years ago I spread my father’s ashes in the ocean too. I still miss him every day.

    1. 2 1/2 is not so long ago. My dad and I are closer now than I when I was child (he and my mom wouldn’t let me do ANYTHING! lol!), but you can’t deny that the father daughter relationship is something special. You’ll never stop missing him, but you have a host of special moments to always remember!

  11. As a young man who has the benefit to say that I have two happy and loving parents, this did strike a cord with me. In recent months, I attended the wake for my best friend. I think at some point in any life, a person tries to envision what life may be like once their parents have to depart. But, I don’t know if anyone envisions a life without a best friend.
    Seeing how you mentioned your father was your best friend in this story, it reminded me of a lot of small, charismatic moments spent with my old friend. It also reminded me how blessed I am for the company I keep with my folks.
    Wonderfully written.
    Real or fictional, a saddened heart still looks for saddened eyes to accompany the path with.

    1. Canne, I’m sorry to hear about the passing of your friend. My dad is still around, but you are right, it’s important to remember and value those special moments. Thank you for your comments!

    1. C.E.K. Thank you for comments. This is actually a flash piece. (I had to apologize to my dad this week because so may people read this and thought he passed!)

    1. Ginger-Vee, this is actually a fictional piece, but what the main character faces is a real dilemma we all face many times in our lives: how to forgive, and act on our forgiveness. Not an easy task! Thank you so much for your comments here and on your blog, and for reposting!

  12. This is so beautiful and am happy Ginger-vee Carter shared it with her readers. I, like Ginger-vee, am better for reading it- thank you for sharing your heart and your story. My father died in a car accident when I was just 20 yrs old. I saw him that morning not knowing it was the last time. I was devastated when he died. I adored my father. And like you, he was both my mother and father to me since my mom was not emotionally available. I have missed him so much over the years and have also been so grateful for our short time together. And thanks to the relationship he nurtured with me, I am grateful to be able to say that. A wise family friend who lost her son in a car accident a decade before my dad died, said to me, ‘Keep his spirit alive and he will always be with you.’ I do that to this day by allowing myself to enjoy the memories of him as I would if he were alive. This fills his space in my life and leaves me feeling whole.
    Many blessing to you. ❤

    1. Hi Denise, I’m sorry to hear about your dad’s passing. Your friend gave you great advice. You will always have those special moments with your father to cherish. This is a fictional piece, but I’m absolutely amazed by how many people relate to this story. Thank you for your comments and sharing YOUR story! ❤

    1. Thank you, Don! This was inspired by a documentary about forgiveness. Take a look at the comment before yours, it will explain the questions I had about forgiveness in such a situation.

  13. Reblogged this on Nikewrites Blog and commented:

    Happy Friday Eve and welcome to another Throwback Thursday ( #TBT ) post!

    I wrote this piece a year ago and it received great response, especially after it was selected by Worpress to be “Freshly Pressed.” Thank you, WordPress! 😀

    A number of commenters thought this was an autobiographical piece. It’s not. It’s fiction based on a documentary I saw called, “Forgiveness.” EXCELLENT DOCUMENTARY!!!

    So, as you read this piece, think about what forgiveness is to you? Do you think forgiveness is a simple thing to do? Or is it a process?

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

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