My brother and his lady life partner lived near Johnson City, TX, not far from the Pernales River. Their house stands upon roughly six acres of mostly wild land — it was my brother's desire his property be a wild-life haven. I also thought Dave selected the property to be as far away from people as possible.
I returned to this property in early April, about a month after David died.
As you walk in the door, you are greeted by an open-flow floor plan combining the living room, dining area, and kitchen. It's very inviting. Immediately in front of you are four chairs, two facing an entertainment center and two facing inwards. Just behind the two chairs facing the entertainment center is a table defining a boundary between the entertainment space and the remainder of the room. This table is about two foot tall, four foot long, and one foot wide, with a shelf about four inches above the floor.
On that shelf are three wooden boxes: the central box contains my brother's cremains; the flanking boxes contain the cremains of his favorite dogs, Sister and Fearless. As his widow said, they are now walking together in eternity.
Thanks to his widow paying my airfare, I flew in on a Thursday afternoon. Normally, it would be over an seven hour drive down a west Texas highway. It was a quiet time, with remembrances, sharing, and music.
His widow decided we would have his commendation on Sunday, roughly a month after his death. The date was actually selected to accomodate several schedules, especially her granddaughter's, who was in a marathon on Saturday.
Now, you need to know that my brother inherited two children when he and his partner joined their lives – R—, a boy, and B—, a girl. He never liked R—; he described him as a sociopath; having never met the man, I don't know if this is warranted. He loved B—, and raised her as if she were his own.
So, when B— had a girl child, L—, he loved her without reservation. I was amazed to learn that he taught her to drive.
Saturday evening, his widow and I attended a concert (of violin & piano) in Blanco. We bought four tomatoes plants en route. It was her plan to symbolically use his ashes to fertilize the tomatoes, partly because of his love of the song "Home Grown Tomatoes" by Guy Clark.
His widow found a non-religious ceremony on line, "When We Remember Him":
One: At the rising of the sun and at its going down. . .
All: We will remember him.
One: At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter. . .
All: We will remember him. . . .
It concludes with
All: For as long as we live, he too will live. . .
For he is now a part of us as we remember him.
Then I read this:
= = = = = Dave wrote the following in 2007=======
I ... think (rather than believe) there is a non-material aspect to the world. I do not worship this aspect, do not build monuments to it and certainly do not advocate massive institutions with ordained orthodoxy, rituals and authoritarian structures.
It is my sense that this thing we call "life" is a state of nature akin to matter or energy. Just as physicists are coming to suspect a sort of "connectedness" across space/time of matter and energy, I think it reasonable to posit such a connection of this thing called life. Such is the non-material aspect of life I think may well exist. Respect is due to that aspect, as it may serve to bind life across the universe (whatever that may actually be).
To hold this view, I long ago rejected the notion of the uniqueness of homo sapiens. Certainly our species has unique characteristics, we tend to suggest self awareness as among these, though how we would know if a horse is self aware or not eludes me. But those unique characteristics do not constitute a "specialness" that is posited in most of the belief systems that rely on a uniquely human deity of some variety.
=== To which I added:
The theory of Quantum Physics suggests that matter is form of energy; all forms we perceive, even our bodies, is a form of energy. As we have said, Dave’s energy is still with us.
Beyond that, as we depart this place, we will carry a bit of Dave with us: our memories, what he taught us, the blazing example of his authentic life. Our charge is to carry all that with us into the world, to honor Dave’s memory by living our own authentic lives, to the fullness of our talents, love, and energy.
But, I get ahead of myself. His widow asked L— to carry his ashes out to the tomato patch, a few yards from the house. The young woman clutched the box close to her chest, as if embracing her grandfather one last time. I had brought quick-light charcoal and a bit of myrrh – his spirit, and our intentions, would rise with the smoke on the wind.
The planters in the garden were built by Dave and his widow. They were built when Dave was still working, so his partner would do the bulk of the work during the week (Dave was often on the road or in the air), and he would help complete the work when he was home. The planters were about six foot long and roughly three foot wide.
There was a bit of breeze, so lighting the charcoal was not as quick as I'd hoped. But, once lit, the aroma was sweet and not cloying. We read the liturgy with my footnote. His widow had already planted the four tomatoes near the four corners of the planter; she spread Dave's ashes along the rows between the plants. She asked B— and L— if they wanted to say anything. Neither did; L— seemed especially withdrawn. I looked at her a moment, then asked: “Would you help me spread the ashes?” She nodded yes.
The box had a sliding door, beneath which was a quarter-inch layer of batting. The box was about a foot square, so it was a bit unwieldy. I actually did need the granddaughter's help. I gingerly spread the ashes down each row.
I had placed the charcoal and myrrh in the soil between the two southern-most rows. His partner asked me to bury it. We three adults walked away.
From the corner of my eye, I saw L— place a single blue bonnet blossom over the place I had buried the incense and charcoal.
Even though Brother Dave did not die in a war, I have chosen to memorialize him today. It seems to me that his experience in Vietnam haunted him the rest of his life. I suspect, from his emails, that the direction this country has gone was extremely stressful for him – knowing the country he idealistically fought for, the country so many died for, has chosen fear and ignorance over our better angels.
The generation which followed mine – the Gen Xers and Millennials – have no memory of how our soldiers were treated when they returned from Vietnam. I believe those men & women become scapegoats for a failed war and the barbaric way that war was executed.
There is a sense in which every person who served in Vietnam is a casualty of that war, whether they died there or not. When I #GoSilent this afternoon, I will be thinking of those men & women – especially my brother, Dave.