I know, that sounds pretty dramatic and somber.
I want to share how releasing the ashes of my father and three cats also helped me realize the importance of releasing the death of my marriage.
For most of my life, I've been a person who holds on to things and I give them too much meaning. Perhaps this is due to the theme of loss throughout my life; my parents divorce, their deaths, the loss of pets, my own divorce and the losses that stacked up with that; his family, my beliefs and my house.
I've held onto 'things'; big and little. My mother's paintings, which I don't really think I will ever part with; my father's cufflinks, things that decorated his large desk and his dress shirts. I have the collars, tags and ashes of three cats, and many 'things' from my married life got boxed up and moved with me when I left Burbank, CA to start my new life in San Luis Obispo.
It's been a continual process of letting go. Recently I've been shedding and releasing even more and it feels really, really good. One of my goals is to live a light life, not encumbered by mental, physical, emotional or spiritual clutter.
With a recent move to a smaller place, I saw it as an opportunity to pare down and get rid of more stuff that I'd had attachments to. I let go of the cooking magazines I used to peruse in my married life for recipes for holiday gatherings and festive parties. I sold the couch my ex and I bought when we moved into our dream house. The beautiful white pitcher that was a wedding gift from his grandmother; donated. Even the empty picture frames that I'd managed to pry open and remove pictures of the past were boxed up for donation. It became clear I wouldn't want to see new pictures framed by the past.
Release, let go, move on. It's a jingle running through my mind. Release, let go, move on.
One day while looking out at Morro Rock, I knew it was time to release the ashes of the past. I started with the three cats. I'd been holding onto Emba's ashes for 14 years. The curse of being sentimental - the cat had been my mom's, and when my mom died, I attached her life onto the cat as if he was a continuation of my mother's life and not just . . . a cat.
Two more containers of cremains held Picasso and Gracie.
The fourth container held my father's ashes I'd been holding onto since his death in 1998. For years, I kept them all stored in the bottom drawer of my bedroom night table in case there was a devastating earthquake, I could grab all their containers. As I write that, it seems ridiculous - but that's an example of how attached I was to the past. I don't know why I was comforted in some way by holding onto their remains, but I do know that loss affects us all differently and we're on our own timeline of when to let go.
I knew I'd be releasing the ashes of my father on what would have been his 89th birthday, March 31st. All of a sudden it felt like it was finally time. To prepare myself, I started with the cats.
I brought their ashes to the eucalyptus grove, a short walk from my place. As I opened the containers, it felt like their spirit energy was being released - even though the energy of the live cats had been transformed so many years ago, I did feel lighter with each scattering of ashes.
I imagined all three cats together, meeting each other for the first time and excited to explore their new surroundings. Emba stayed close by my side while Gracie climbed up the tree limbs to get a lay of the land while Picasso scampered down to the water's edge where he chirped at the birds gathered safely in the shallow bay.
They were healthy and free. Their eyes were bright, glowing emeralds, their fur coats were thick and glistened in the sunshine. They were reborn.
This profound feeling of having them come back to life was invigorating. I released the psychic weight of my attachment to the ashes and felt lighter, freer and liberated.
I knew I was ready to release the ashes of my father I'd been holding onto for 17 years.
I'd never put his cremains in a ceramic urn and I always found it ironic that the plastic receptacle was imprinted with a notice, "Temporary Container." Just as the body is a temporary container for the soul.
On the walk to the sand dune I listened to classic broadway show tunes, his favorite. "I could have danced all night," from My Fair Lady, "What I did for love," from A Chorus Line and "Music of the night," from The Phantom of the Opera - all gripped at my throat and tears released down my wind swept face.
The song, "Somewhere over the rainbow" played and for a moment I dipped into sadness, recalling my wedding day. It was the song I walked down the aisle to take my wedding vow. My tears stung with salty-sweet memories cherished and the dreams and hopes that perished when the marriage ended.
But the sadness didn't last long. All the healing work I've done over the past four years has had a measurable effect. I was able to listen to Judy Garland's beautiful voice swirling through my head and I smiled, recalling the joy that made me choose that song for my wedding instead of focusing solely on the loss of my husband and marriage.
I trudged up the sand dune and found a spot near some shrubs that overlooked the expansive ocean, with Morro Bay and the hills in the distance. The top of the world felt like an inspired place to let my dad go.
Just like I experienced with my cats, I felt a resurgence of my father's vibrant essence as I released his ashes - setting them free from the confines of the dark container.
He was free to play the drums set up in the living room, he made his way around the kitchen to prepare his specialty; French toast. I imagined him joining me at the Performing Arts Center for a musical review and afterwards we'd go for cheesecake and coffee. I heard the clinking of the spoon as he swirled sugar into his cup.
I felt lighter and lighter - again, lifted from the thin but gripping threads of holding on to that which had already been transformed from living to dead.
My memories became more alive and vivid as I released, let go and moved on. I skipped back down the dune listening to Julie Andrews sing "Do Re Mi" from The Sound of Music.
Letting go of a dead marriage has taken time and specific, deliberate intention. I've learned that to move forward in a healthy way, I must first be aware of how I'm feeling, honor those feelings and then release them. It is a continual process of releasing. As time passes, the emotional charge becomes dulled. Practices like EFT, meditation and gratitude have helped me heal the wounds that almost claimed my life.
"The wound is where the light enters." - Rumi
Let go, release, move on. Perhaps it will be a broadway musical someday. Until then, it's the song I continue to sing so I can live the light life I desire.