This past weekend I returned my sister's ashes to the sacred earth.
Melissa died 4 years ago of metastasized breast cancer. She'd donated her body to the Georgetown Medical School so we didn't receive her cremains for two years. When they arrived at my house around April, 2012, I started contemplating what to do with them.
I knew Melissa was gone. She'd left her physical body on June 30, 2010.
The ashes weren't really "her" anymore.
And I believe that we aren't really a body. The body is what we need to be in this life but it isn't who we are.
It's simply the necessary vehicle we occupy until our time on this earth plane is done.
Since she left her body, Mel has visited me often. I feel her beautiful essence dancing around me, free and happy in a way she rarely was corporeally.
But still, there is a vibration to the physical aspect of us and I had to decide where her ashes were going.
That decision turned out to be remarkably easy.
As soon as I began to think about it, the answer came to me right away.
Melissa went to college in Portland, Oregon, at Reed. And when I think back over her life, she was happiest there. She loved being a college student and she especially connected with the culture and beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Maybe it was in her blood. Our maternal grandparents were both from Washington state. Mel loved it there even though she chose to move after college. It was like she left her heart in Oregon. So of course that's where she had to come back to.
We are born of the earth and to the earth we return.
Saturday was a glorious, cloudless day. Mt Hood rose prominently over us and I smiled. I couldn't have asked for a more gorgeous day. The wildflowers were blooming, the forest was thick and lush. I could see the snow still clinging to the apex of the mountain.
We found a forest path and meandered down it.
We passed ferns and rhododendron, young douglas firs and maple saplings. We walked through a group of dead trees, standing ghost like, holding sentry. We kept going.
Eventually, the trail turned and I could see light filtering through the limbs and branches. We were on the side of a canyon. Out through the trees I could see the entire lush forest valley descending below me and rising on the other side. In the distance were more hills and valleys reaching out to the horizon. The sun was shining as a large bird glided overhead. This place was magnificent and perfect.
Melissa definitely lived her life following the road less traveled.
She was a daring, courageous soul who refused to compromise her values, lived for nearly a decade as a single woman in the Middle East, took her horse over jumps taller than I am, was one of the most loyal, loving friends and lived with cancer for 5 years.
It seemed only fitting to leave her bodily remains near a trail that is infrequently traveled.
In a place of solitude and silence where, now that she was through with it and the medical students were done with it, her body (ashes) could nurture new growth in wilderness.