Saturday, May 16, 2009

Rust to dust

Today was the day everyone was supposed to get together in Harper's Ferry to scatter Dr. Walker's ashes. Her wish, they said, was for it to be done where the Shenandoah and Potomac meet. This would be on Park Service land, which meant a special permit was needed. The scattering of ashes mustn't be conducted willy-nilly, or visitors to the park would find ashy remains on the keels of their canoes and kayaks, or on the soles of their shoes; the ranger who talked us through the guidelines was very careful to explain all this. He met us at the gate, and when all the party were assembled--Dr. Walker's caregiver, some of her colleagues and a few friends-- he led us down a road marked "Do Not Enter", then had us park at the train station before he led us down the hill to the riverbank.
I've never attended this kind of event before, and was uncertain of what to expect. Mom took some of the first roses from our garden, enough for each of us to put one in the river, and Dr. Walker's caregiver brought the ashes. It was disconcerting to see Dr. Walker in a cardboard box; I couldn't not think of the ashes as her, and it's still difficult to believe that she's not present in a fleshly state. Mom pointed out that she'll likely not be forgotten because all her students will remember the throaty voice imparting the intricacies of American Federal Government and her dislike of driving in snow, and that as long as there are people who remember her, she's not truly gone.
The Caregiver invited each of us to take a handful of ashes to throw in the river, and mom gave roses to those who wanted them, and the roses went into the river, too. Afterward, everyone stood by and offered some little anecdote about Dr. Walker: How they remembered her being an exotic, feline beauty in her youth, how valued she was as a colleague, how she liked to buy things in large quantities rather, how generous she was. Before we left the riverbank, a pair of Canada geese came paddling upstream against the current, which must have been a difficult task considering how fast the river is moving after all the rain we've had recently.
An omen, maybe?

1 comment:

Rachael said...


That's a really beautiful memorial.