Sunburn

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The day after my dad’s corpse burned to ashes, we went to pick them up by the scenic hillside crematory. 

I was numb for feeling and my mum was still reluctant to cry. 

My little sister was just blunt, as she displays herself during working days and weekends alike. No matter whether she has just won the lottery, or her father has died.

But we had to go. My dad’s ashes were there, waiting for us.

It was late June. On the way to the train station, I’d witnessed a stray dog trying to get across the road. He was nearly run over, but a kind driver harshly hit on the brake pedal, thus avoiding canicide.  

The dog froze in time so I called over to him. The car driver looked relieved and waved at me in honest gratitude. I petted the dog for a while.

But I had to go. He saw me leave. He kept wandering about.

To this day I still wonder where he ended up. He most likely got plastered on to the asphalt. I still feel sorry I could not help him much.

But I had to go. My dad’s remains were waiting for us. 

We turned up at the crematory. We were waiting at the queue, which was not too long for a Saturday, I thought. 

I couldn’t help but wonder if some families just left the ashes or corpses behind. Safe in the knowledge that even if they did not get the dignity of their own grave, they would still get buried in a common one. 

Deep down over six feet under

It was now our turn. My mum approached, presenting the desk clerk with the paper tag. It read my dad’s coffin registration number. Looking stiff and concerned, the guy took the number off my mum’s arthritic hands. He disappeared into the inner office. After a few minutes, he returned with a beige, nondescript urn. 

And opened it up. I thought he’d show us the matching registration number. We glimpsed into the ash bag instead. They were there indeed, ashes to ashes.

But were those my dad’s? 

We took off. For a walk. Under the blistering sun. I suggested a taxi but my sister insisted on taking the bus, so we headed to the nearest stop.  

We spent there almost thirty minutes, dad-in-the-urn and the three of us, patiently (grumpily) hoping that the bus driver would come and save us. 

Do ashes get sunburnt at all? 

They may turn darker. They may turn sad. They may turn oblivious to the fact they are dead and no longer exist in this world of tedious, unaware solitude. 

And so we headed off to the funky neighbourhood. I suggested a nice restaurant to celebrate dad’s birthday, which happened to be on the day of the ash pickup. 

I placed the urn on a seat right next to me. We chattered away and ate and I had my glass of wine.

All is good with life. And so is dad. Even when all that remains of him is grey matter. 

I still think of that stray dog sometimes. 

The Author

Woman. Floaty. Attached. Dettached. Sudden. Note-scribbler. Citizen of the world. Travelling to the moon and back.

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