You know the first part of this one, but bear with me ok?
The first time I met you, you were drinking chamomile tea. You were wearing your green sweater, which I kept; we all took one of your sweaters as our own. You had your leather satchel with you and your beard was short. My friend revels in reminding me of my first description of you – a burl of a loving man.
You were drinking chamomile tea . . . I had grown and dried chamomile the summer before, and likely we talked about that during our first bit of time together. At some point soon after, I gave you two bags of that dried chamomile – two tea bags. I seem to recall finding them much later when we cleaned out one of your knapsacks; you had planned on using them during a work break. We put them in the back of your tea cupboard, and I found them again when we moved you out of your coop apartment. I must have set them aside at that point, thinking them now a memory more than a consumable.
I found the chamomile again recently, as I worked further to make this home mine by unpacking some of the boxes I purposefully let sit. I also have a small amount of your ashes, which the funeral home gave to me as a leftover from making the pendants for the kids. It’s a sunny, fall day . . . and I had an idea just as I was getting ready to take the dog out for his morning constitutional.
Your ashes will be interred with your grandfather. They are with your mother now. Your children and mine will carry a bit of you with them in their pendants. I have no need of your physical presence, and little need of your material things. You carried little with you through life and what remains belongs more truly with your family. And no, I am not excluding myself from that context. But you carried sacred bits of history such as war medals and photos that hold their value with others.
So it seemed like the right idea to carry out another ritual. Today is two weeks since we shared some peace together, the day before you passed. Your fear still loomed, but for a time we were able to try new things together, such as the sauna in our new home. For a time we lived, instead of suffered and cared.
This morning while the dog waited patiently, I poured some of your ashes into one of the now archival teabags of chamomile. I then put the bag into the pocket of my hoodie, and bundled up a bit more than usual. It’s October now and bare feet and Birkenstocks just don’t cut it.
The dog and I headed for the boardwalk, enjoying the sun and routines of the river. There were several people fishing, and most of the other walkers had been pulled outside by their own four-legged companions. We eventually made our way to the lock you and I had put on the boardwalk fence – I think it was that same living Sunday, two weeks ago – the lock with our names and wedding date engraved on it.
I always pull the tea company label off the teabag string before I toss it in the pot, so I did that now too. After all, this was a ritual. I’m a weak toss and the pier sticks out past the fence, so I was a bit worried I would strand you, to be slowly eroded by wind and rain. But I managed to set you free – you and the chamomile – and the dog and I headed for the footbridge to see if you were by chance, floating. And you were. You made your way slowly towards us, and eventually disappeared under the bridge.
“Rock me momma like the wind and the rain, rock me momma like a southbound train. Heeee-eeey, momma rock me.”