This is my report to family and friends who wonder how the trip to Colorado to spread my Dad’s ashes went. Dad died in April. He was 85. In late September 2002 I got him onto the mountain where he wished his ashes to be spread. Same place he had spread Mom’s ashes when she died a few years ago. On the southern slope of Mt. Lindsey facing the house they built together and spent roughly twenty years in.
Here’s Dad in the plastic box from the crematorium. I was a little nervous about having to open him up and wrap him in cloth ... but I had re-read the letter Dad wrote to my sister and me describing in meticulous detail how he prepared for spreading Mom’s ashes five years ago ... so I knew what to do.
Chris helped me slit open the plastic inner pouch. He always carries a swiss army knife. I finished the job myself and folded the top flap under the ashes so they would be entirely free for the drop. A person has no training for standing face to face with cremated remains of a parent. What to do? Well, I looked at the stuff and stuck my fingers into it gingerly. It was gritty and grey. Then I stroked the fingers over my cheeks. Of course I was crying. Just had to get through this. Then I folded the torn sheet fabric as Dad had described and rolled him up loosely so the wind could unfurl him easily. I knew I was doing the right thing.
Here’s the AT-11 bomber trainer from 1943 that was to take us aloft. Isn’t it just beautiful? The weather was iffy and had already delayed us a whole day. Ground level was at about 8000 feet and the ceiling was low. I wasn’t so sure we’d get up in the air, but after an hour or so of preparation and nervous anxiety a window of clear sky opened up from the west and we took off.
This is a composite shot from my fold-down-flap seat in the back. The lower bombs had been removed so I could easily drop my parcel out when Lars opened the bomb hatches from his seat in the nose. I kneeled on the floor and reached the wrapped remains down through the open right hatch and let go. I wasn't attached to anything, and it was pretty breezy when the hatches opened. This was a one shot deal. No practicing.
This is the view from the front. That’s me on the left. Vern (next to me) and Loren (the pilot) were friends of my parents. Between Vern and me on the floor is the cloth wrapped remains of Dad all dressed and ready to fly. Over our heads is a domed plexiglas turret where we could stand and look out. Pretty spartan accommodations back there.
I asked Vern if this is the very same seat Dad sat in to spread Mom's ashes.
“I bet he really enjoyed it.”
Here we are approaching the mountain. Mt. Blanca and Mt. Lindsay are joined at the hip and part of the Sangre de Cristo range in southern Colorado.
Lars in the nose. It was his job to operate the bomb hatches.
Chris and me. Just after the drop. I'm a weepy mess and seeking consolation on Chris’ shoulder.
Loren made a circling pass over the old homestead. It was nice to see cars parked outside knowing that other people now call the place home. Time marches on.
I feel a great sense of relief.
I asked Vern and Loren how I could pay them for their help. “Oh, a wink and a smile will do,” they said. They got hugs.