Ashes to Ashes

we are skin, bone, sinew, sheath protecting
rushing blood, heart that beats, muscle,
what would happen if skin peels back
what would others see

our imperfections inscribed on concrete paths
our loves and hates broadcast, wants, dreams
to strangers whose footsteps tred
unknowingly across our backs

we travel sometimes alone, learning life through
others and ourselves, our journey evolving
inwardly not sharing when our cross is hard
to bare and would strangers care

we walk and talk, the humans that we are
with foibles and finery, genetics make
our personality, we love, we hate, laugh, cry
complex creatures, the miracle of simply being

our hearts need to beat, our blood to flow
if broken and skin peeled back, we may reveal
bruises of the life we’ve led, that swelled
caused pain, that never surfaced

so take us for what we are, who we are
this short time on this earth, the marvels
of the human kind, for when all is said and done
we are bone, skin, sinew and blood

copyright JMTacken 9.4.2014

The below may be a little confronting. Apologies.

Today a small group of Funeral Celebrants had a tour of one of our local cemeteries set on 440 acres of land and 80,000 trees with beautifully manicured and maintained gardens.
We visited the sites of the Greek, Hindu, Chinese, Jewish, Italian graves and many more. We saw the baby to 3 year old site, which was full of colour and even a small playground and the children’s site. The site of our Victorian Police force who were killed in the line of duty.

Then we visited the building were the cremations took place. Down a steep driveway to a brick building, we entered quietly, reverently.

There was a gentleman with one of the furnaces open raking out the remains of ‘someone’ we stood, the three of us, silent. We saw a large femur bone, amongst the red ashes of the ‘kiln’.

He then asked if we wanted to witness the next one who was coming in. He wheeled in a coffin, adorned with yellow daisies, and opened the furnace door, sliding it carefully in. As soon as it was in place a massive flame came up and he closed the door. We all stood, watching, enthralled and curious about the event that took place in front of us.

The temperature exceeded 900deg. Those that have hip replacements or metal in their bodies were sifted through and a bottom furnace then burnt the remaining ashes. This may seem a morbid thing to write about, but as a funeral celebrant, knowing now how the process is, brought a sense of relief, in a way.

The process is handled with great care and respect. The bodies of loved ones are then placed into containers, all marked. They check the paperwork 5 times before each cremation.

We were told the higher the lacquer on the coffin, the faster it burns. That having cardboard coffins is environmentally unfriendly as they are held together with too much glue. They want the ashes to be in the purest state possible, so advise funeral directors and celebrants to deter families from placing photos, letters or other memorabilia in for their journey.

As we walked out the building, I started to get quite emotional and cry. I wrote the above last night, prior to this visit, not knowing what we were going to witness.

It brought home we are just ‘items’ in a way. Made up of many things, then when our time comes we are but ash, disintegrated parts of us, of what was us…dust to dust..hard to describe really…

Saying Goodbye (Prose)

I am cold, death, silently tapped at my door
your weighted tears drop heavily on my cheeks
my parched lips tried to speak
tried to say ~ don’t cry

I wanted to ~ you know that ~ don’t you?

crazy things swept through my head
I didn’t get to tell you my favourite flower
or the song that meant the world to me
or the poem for my Eulogy

why didn’t I say these things before?

would you have written them down
or thought it silly ~ we were too young
to lock these ‘things’ to memory
important now ~ yet not before

but ~ does it really matter?

today I say goodbye
flowers on my coffin, cremating me with
reverence, I pray I’m not forgotten
my girls are crying ~ be strong

can’t you hear my voice?

one more chance to say how I’ll miss you
death ~ life’s circle coming to an end
conceived, live and die, we cannot pretend
we are immune, my time came to soon

the universe made the call

but, in a way I’m ok with that ~ does that sound
stupid to say those words, it’s you I’ve left
behind to grieve, I watch you in the front row
the crumpled tissues that you use

will you grab each other’s hand?

I listen as you struggle with
words you read out loud ~ be brave
a minute or two and it will pass
I’m with you still, I’m here ~ I am

I’ll try and stop your pain ~ I will

as I lay on satin, in darkness
no longer cold, today my body lies here
but not accompanied by my soul
for that has lifted into clouds

can you spread my ashes far and wide to the ocean that I love?

I’m smiling ~ you can’t see me
the ocean at sunset, my last plea
be happy, my love ~ my girls
I am near you ~ I will never leave

©jmtacken Oct 15 2013


Apologies for any birds ‘singing’ in the background outside my window.