My friend's husband died unexpectedly, just a short time ago. And yesterday, we travelled to see my other friend Lisa, and together we made a ceremony. Lisa, who led, was impeccable, just as I knew she would be. And my friend put things into a fire - family photographs and a letter and tools for her husband's craft. And she put a picture their daughter had painted into the fire. And socks to keep his feet warm. And his baseball cap - although she commented that in his current condition he might have more hair and not need it so much. And then she spoke to him about their lives together, about their children and grandchildren, about all the things he did well, and about everything she hoped for him now. It was difficult for her to put her daughter’s painting into the fire and also difficult to put in the baseball cap because it smelled like him. She said other things and I don’t want to say too much about the things that were just for her and her husband. But I will tell you what I thought as she was speaking: “This is how you love someone.”
Then we walked down the hill and into the state park where there are many waterfalls. And we went down and down to the bottom of all the waterfalls and then we had a ceremony for ourselves. Each of us put something into the water and said our requests for our lives and the lives of those we love. It didn’t take long. I would be surprised if any of us spoke for more than a minute. I think that was good. We were so done with any need for sounding articulate or for trying to make something happen. We were simple and honest and when that was accomplished, we didn’t need anything more.
We went back this morning and I took pictures. My friend took pictures also, and you might like to know that when she got off the trail a little bit, and got a little bit lost and deep in the woods, she found a baseball cap.
The first picture I ever took was of a waterfall. I took it up in Nova Scotia, during the summer between the third and fourth grade, with my father’s camera. The water that was in that picture has got to be somewhere. I know it’s still water. I know it has gone around and around. Maybe some little molecule was even in these pictures. The things we put into the water yesterday have already passed from one river to another. They may be in the Connecticut River already, or even in Long Island Sound.
I watched how Lisa was with my friend and I tried to learn. Because Lisa knows because she also lost a husband years ago. We hoped for small things…whatever my friend wanted… a little rest or a change of scene or some nourishment for a journey that is going to take some time. And meantime, we like to think of the smoke rising and the water falling, carrying our memories and wishes. And the wind is blowing in all directions. And the water itself is carried.