We went out to put dad’s ashes in the water on a beautiful semi-chilly morning on the ocean front. I was bare feet, with my pants rolled up to my knees and had the ashes in a bag in my right hand. It felt odd holding my dad, who I was used to holding in my arms in my fingers, clutched in a small plastic bag, with rice grains and a red rose on top. It was odd to accept that all the little white and gray particles in a plastic bag was once my dad, smiling, beaming, loving, caring and breathing. Within a few minutes, he was turned in to a zillion shiny little particles because one of his organs failed on him. This was surreal at best.
Pravin kaka, Viral and I took the bag while mom, babukaka, renukakaki, usha aunty and laxmi kaki were standing on the beach. We looked for a ‘good’ spot to put the ashes away. I was not sure what ‘good’ meant. The ashes were grated so finely that it would not matter where they were put. Still, everyone, including me kept looking, searching and walking for the special spot. Maybe it was just that we just wanted a little bit more time with dad or we were unwilling to let go of a million pieces and hoping that they will rejoin to reproduce him and all the good things that everyone loved about him. Maybe, once he is recreated we can just walk back to the car, laugh at the Truth and head home.
Fine, grained, white and gray still beautiful, but plain. I tried really hard to look for his mind, his desires, smile, ambitions, his faults, hate, love in the little white flakes, but could not find a thing. The ashes were, so plain, so emotionless, so lifeless. We walked in about ten feet into the water. I had pravinkaka on my left and Viral on my right as I started unpacking daddy. The string came off with some help from Pravinkaka and suddenly, dad started falling off. Within seconds, he started dissolving and rushing off towards uncountable directions. The rose traveled away with such amazing rapidity that it was a hundred feet away in twenty seconds and the ashes dissolved in the water just as someone put sugar in a coffee mug. Imagine a mug that is as big as the ocean and the sugar being less than ten spoonfuls. How insignificant is man compared to the vast expanse of the universe! Dad ran in all sorts of directions at different speeds. His hands, legs, chest, cheeks, stomach and everything that I once called dad–was gone. He became a part of water, the mud, the shore and the ocean. Very soon, I thought, he might become a part of a sea weed, fish or he might surprise someone as a little rain drop on their nose if he got lifted up as precipitation. That smile, the rapid pace at which he walked, the wonderful chai that he made and now what had remained were a lump of ashes and within seconds even that- was gone in milliseconds.
It was a humiliating experience for my own ego and mind. I am constantly driven to achieve more, study more, protective of my pride, acquire more – but ‘I’ is me melted away a bit when I saw the future fate of my own body and my entire being. I will be, just like dad, one day-become a part of everything else. All my hopes, fears, ego, distractions, passions will melt away into nothingness. This Truth is depressing or exhilarating depending on how you look at it. The depressing part is that we find that all the things we hold onto and grasp in our life everyday are deemed meaningless and as a result, there is ‘nothing to do’ and ‘nothing more to achieve’. The exhilarating part if that if one if able to internalize this Truth, than one is preparing himself to spend the rest of their lives on this Earth with complete satisfaction and joy. It also means that our time in the world is truly limited and we must make the best of it for others and ourselves.
All these thoughts swept by me as I was releasing the ashes into the cold water. With the realization of the impermanence of life and the unity of all forms-living or non-living, I began to feel a great chill on my feet. I felt very very relaxed and comfortable. I was not sure this was death or life. It was life cause I realized what life really was and it was death because there was nothing left of my dad. It was everything because dad became a part of everything, but it was nothing, because he was no more.
A sudden realization just hit me that life, just like energy is indestructible. The law of conservation of energy states that energy can not be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another. That is why we must respect all living and non-living beings.
I was happy that I had internalized wisdom, intellectually familiar, but never really absorbed by me–but I was sad that I could not share it with my life with dad.
I was smiling and completely at peace and satisfied. It felt odd to be so full of energy and life when your dad just left you forever leaving a big void in your heart and in your life. With giving me an opportunity to have this realization at his expense, he gave me life in his death.