Honoring Mark’s Life
By Marsha Valutis
My brother, Mark John James, passed away on March 29, 2006 at the age of 48. Immediately following the celebration of his life, we held an Inurnment to spread his ashes. The following is a description of this very special, heart-touching event. I hope it touches your heart, as well.
After the service honoring Mark’s life, we drove down to the MeramacRiver – Mark’s favorite place to be. There we would release his ashes into the river, symbolizing his return to spirit. It was a beautiful day and the ride down was peaceful. I hadn’t thought about how it would be, but was just experiencing each moment as it came. Arriving at the river was bittersweet. It has always been an inviting place for me, and one of many memories, but at this moment it represented an ending. The river, however, in all its wisdom, kept its gentle pace in the midst of nature’s own death and rebirth cycle. The spring equinox had just passed and soon the river’s banks would be green with new life.
Everyone pretty much arrived all at once. The sun was shining as we all gathered on the boat launch, next to the river’s bank. The honorary pall bearers were Mark’s close friends who had formed a very special bond together – one in which time served as a testament to their love and acceptance of one another. It seemed that no matter how life changed and brought changes to each of these boys who became men, when they came together (as they still did), they connected with what they once were, always had been and always will be. I remember thinking how at home they must feel here and how they had a well of experiences on this river with Mark. As we began the ceremony, these men: Scott, Lacy, Alan, Tom, Ron and Gary, were each invited to take a portion of Marks’ ashes to release into the river. So one at a time, they each said goodbye and scattered Mark’s ashes into the river as the rest of us chanted, “Into your hands, Lord, we commend Mark’s spirit.”
The family members were invited to do the same, and those who wished to did. Finally dad, who steadfastly served as Marks’ touchstone during his last year here, put the rest of Mark’s ashes in the river all at once. Suddenly, two ducks appeared, gliding just over the water’s surface and where the ashes still lingered, honking loudly. We all watched in wonder as they glided past and disappeared. It was a beautiful and mystical occurrence, as if Mark were recognizing our gestures, saying “Thank you. I love you too. I am not gone – just unseen, and yet you can see my spirit here, as the ducks have proven.”
Just after the ducks flew out of site, from behind us a single trumpet sounded, playing Oh When the Saints…. Go Marching In. The timing was exquisite as the trumpeter joyously became the instrument and surrendered the music. It sounded so pure as it fell across the land and the water, uncontained by walls or ceilings, just falling into the space of the river and the sky. It was magical, as if we were in a dream or some other land where such amazing things happen naturally.
These two events were forever captured in the memory of experience by imprinting themselves on all levels of my being, sending me straight to the core of being. This inurnment was filled with moments that touch the heart in such a way as to open it to the great love that knows no bounds and surpasses all limitations. It is moments like these that make one feel so very much alive, so grateful to be here, and so certain there is much more journey ahead.