The shape you left in us.
As I looked around at the group of sixteen, circled in the shadow of giant rocks, a makeshift family of friends who had reconvened to release the ashes, I could almost see the shape of Vernon in our midst. I’d put most of the ashes in a beautiful clay vase our friend Jeff had made, and it stood alone on the ground, in the middle of the group. Someone began to spontaneously share some memories of our dear departed, and as our eyes began to fill up with emotion, it seemed to me the little urn was standing at such a jaunty angle it could have been listening. A picture of Vernon washed over me…he was laying back on his final hospital bed, basking in the company and music, one eyebrow cocked, purely focused on on every face there, dawning to the same truth we all were becoming aware of: that this was a sacred time.
Here we were, gathered again, almost three months later. We’ve joined up many times since he died, but this was the most sacred, intentional. This half hour of scattering the ashes was set apart to honor Vernon out of a weekend spent climbing, eating, playing, watching sunrises and sunsets, chasing little children, exploring, eating, drinking, sitting by the fire, enjoying music and each other’s company. As we stood in a lopsided circle, I could imagine his presence there again, as if he took on the shape of the space inside our circle. Some of us in the group knew him longer than others. Most knew him before the accident, but then, perhaps not that well. Some met him afterward, and never knew him in his previous mental state. But all of us loved him, stuck by him, were greatly affected by his struggle to live for so long when he should have died on the street that night. All of us came to be more compassionate, humbled people because of the way he was. Our hearts were broken but will surely be stronger for the scar tissue. We cannot separate who we are now from our love for him. So we come together to renew that shape, whether we talk about him or not. We plug in and remember him…and honor what we’ve become.