Remembering Bobby, #7

My brother Bobby, born November 2, 1955, would have been 56 today. He died two and half years ago, on April 7, 2009.

This past Saturday, October 30, 2011, my sister and I, along with my husband Dave and Betsy’s friend Jerry, laid Bobby’s ashes to rest. And so here I am, a few days later, writing my last post on Bobby. On his birthday.

I didn’t plan it that way. In fact, we had planned to scatter Bob’s ashes two years ago, but things just didn’t work out. I wondered if they would this time.

The four of us (Betsy, Dave, Jerry, and I) had gone to Roanoke, Virginia, to mingle Bob’s ashes with those of our brother Billy’s. His had been scattered on a high place overlooking the city where he could finally be a star. But when we got to Roanoke, the mountains were socked in and icy roads made travel to the higher elevations hazardous.

It was Jerry who suggested we consider another site, one where Bob used to play and was his happiest as a kid. So on a cold, gray, rainy morning we drove out to the old neighborhood and parked our cars along Mudlick Creek. The last of autumn’s colors shimmied in the still pools of the once-gurgling creek that winds its way to the Roanoke River.

We unpacked all that physically remained of our youngest brother–a bag of sand-like, whitish ashes that could easily fit into a woman’s size 7 shoe box.

No sooner had we carried what was once our living, breathing brother over to the creek than the sky parted directly over our heads. An intense blue hole opened right above us and the sun shone through, down onto the creek, into the grotto where echoes of Bob’s laughter could once be heard.

And was heard again, in all its deep, rich joyfulness at the absurdities of life.

The sun lit up a young, golden-leafed maple where Betsy and Dave used some sticks to rake a scattering of ashes into some loose dirt around its base. I took the plastic bag, still brimming with its contents, and swooped it out over a still pool of water. Betsy did the same.

“You’re part of the elements now, Bob,” I said. Of course, he always was. More than any of us, he was the one closest to nature.

We watched as his ashes spread out in the water like a milky galaxy across the night sky.

Dave meanwhile had gone to stand on the little bridge that crossed the creek so he could take some photos.

“Look!” he said. All of a sudden, the creek started running again, into the pool where Bob’s ashes were mingling with the water.

The water was continuing its journey. It had seeped from hillside springs, washed down from the mountains, filtered through the glens, and wound its way through the meadows, and now it was on its way to becoming one with the Chesapeake Bay, Atlantic Ocean, and air around us.

You’re free, Bob.

We’ll miss you.

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