What on earth do bombs and birthdays and ashes have in common? Well, while my Dad was celebrating his birthday back in 1945 as a soldier in the New Zealand armed forces, the city of Hiroshima was being obliterated. I always wondered what it would be like to have one’s birthday coincide with a horrific historical event such as that, but when I’d ask him about it he would simply reply, “It was the war, dear,” shake his head, and shut down.
Yesterday it came around again: the sixth of August. Hiroshima Day and the anniversary of Dad’s birth back in 1913. And two years exactly since Mum and I, with a few dear friends, walked out onto the Urangan Pier and scattered Dad’s ashes onto the turning tide.
Dad was a dyed-in-the-wool Kiwi. He always wanted to return to homeland Aotearoa and we were on the verge of making his wish come true when he took off. It wasn’t a sudden death. He was, after all, 95 years old.
We deliberated about how best to get his ashes back across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand. A sailor friend came up with the suggestion that we scatter them onto the turning high tide from the Urangan Pier. This being Queensland, Australia, the next landfall would be New Zealand’s West Coast, his favorite haunt. It was a quiet happy ceremony, topped off with a picnic lunch on the beach.
This year, however, I was alone. No little Mother with her twinkling blue eyes. Her absence still takes constant adjusting to, even though more than a year has passed since she left.
It was a divine day, typical of winter in this part of the world. I bought a parcel of fish and chips – Dad’s fave tucker – and sat on the beach right about where this photo was taken. The chips didn’t need salt. Tears were streaming. And they were both sweet and salty. Fragments of this dream decade arose and floated around in mind, bits of deliciousness, bits of frustratedness and weariness and huge upswellings of love. It was all there, and it was all welcomed and named, and allowed to stream out with the tide.
(And this is what I want to share because I think it is so important, and because it took me so long to understand and accept, and because ignorance of it caused so much suffering: not one feeling or emotion or thought can be separated out from the aware-ing in which it arises. The full embrace of one’s experience is the full embrace of the Lover. It is the intimacy we seek. It melts the mind into the heart.)
Punakaiki, West Coast, Aotearoa New Zealand
A few months ago I stood there, on the rocks at Punakaiki on the West Coast of the South Island, and fancied I could hear Dad’s unmistakable cheery whistling rising up from the swirling kelp forests.
– miriam louisa
Top image: Urangan Pier – Neil Paskin © 2007
Punakaiki image – Open Source