The calming of a soul

I saw a man dump ashes into the Gulf a few years ago. I made up a story for him. 

A lone elderly man walked on the beach with two small urns. This would be his last act of codependency as he unscrewed the silver containers’ lids. Inside the bigger one was the ashes of the woman he had loved his whole life.  And inside the same urn was the ashes of the woman who tormented him his whole life, too. She had been like the riptide in front of him: Beautiful to the eye and the unitiated but dangerous beneath the surface.  He had nearly been sucked out to sea numerous times by her pain.  Somehow, by the Grace of God, he had figured out how to swim perpendicular to the tide and survive.

A lone seagull flew overhead and squawked.

He had remembered the fights. Her drinking. Her attempts at self-medication that never seemed to work.  Narcissicism tore at her soul for years. She worked hard to protray herself as someone who was happy and in control. But soon her physical ailments shredded that facade. Her broken soul was laid bare for all to see — expect he protected her by acting as a filter.  Each year became harder and harder. His soul was scarred now as well.

Lightning flickered on the horizon from tall cumulonimbus clouds that clawed their way toward the sky.  A lone freighter’s lights blinked as it sailed toward New Orleans.  It was just him, God and an urn full of ashes on that lone beach.

“Why?” It was the only word he could muster. Love kept him from asking anything else.  He didn’t expect an answer — God had remained silent so many other times. Why should he expect an answer now?

The seagull landed in front of him and waddled greedily toward him.  The man fished into his pocket and pulled out a napkin. Inside were a handful of stale French fries. He tossed one to the gull, who gobbled it before demanding a second one.

“You remind me of her. Nothing was ever good enough. Always wanting more.”

The gull really didn’t care. He was there for the fries, not a lecture. The rest of the fries seemed to satisfy him as he flew back out to sea and the toward the darkening sky.

The gull had freedom. And the man now had it, too — yet he failed to realize it.  Love had him locked in a prison his own heart had built.

Low rumbles of thunder rolled across the gulf. Waves became taller and a white foam covered them like foam on a rabid dog’s snout. She had not known peace.  Like the land tormenting the sea, her mind crashed and thrashed her until the end. He had found her journals. Her secrets had come out and now he was going to make sure they went with her.  A second container contained their ashes.  When she died, he had burned them in their backyard.

Lightning forked across the sky. The sky and sea grew angrier.  Wind and sand whipped across the beach. Her soul was now fully lashing out at the physical world, trying to take him with her.  He looked out at the storm with his steel blue eyes and squinted. “Allison, I will always love you. And I forgive you  because you were ill. But I as of right now, I’m letting you go.  Goodbye. May God’s peace find you.”

The old man took off his shoes and walked to the edge of the surf.  He then dumped both sets of ashes into the water.  He watched them swirl, mix and hiss in the water. And as they began to wash out to sea, he heard the gull’s lone cry. Then the wind calmed and the waves died down. The storm clouds parted revealing the sun sinking into the sea.

The storm was over.  A tortured soul was finally free.

And a survivor headed home.


About Marshall Ramsey