When you look at the people you love in your life, you often don’t think about them in terms of measurements. By that, I mean it’s hard, or rather nearly impossible, to quantify exactly how much of a factor someone in your life is. You feel the space they take up in the world. You experience their larger-than-life personalities every time they make a room explode in laughter or the hush that falls when your quiet giant has some wisdom to bestow upon those lucky enough to hear it.
You feel the walls of your heart swell with the tremendous emotions they make you feel. They are a top charter for recalled memories. You can acquaint your own size in relation to their actual size when you squeeze them with huge hugs. You can tell someone you love them millions of times, and it will still feel those words aren’t big enough or said frequently enough.
Adding up all the elements that make up a human you love, multiplied by the amount you love, should surely equal making them the heaviest thing on the planet, right?
When I held that small box with the entire weight of my mom in it, I couldn’t believe how light it was.
I was not prepared for the insufficient-ness as it sat in my hands. I had held things with absolutely no meaning to me that were heavier and took up less space than these remnants of one of the most important people in my life.
It didn’t make sense.
I admit that math had never been my strong suit, but this didn’t compute for me. How? How was absolutely everything she was reduced to this—a less than bone-crushing weight that I shouldn’t even have been able to handle as a single mortal person?
If I were to start adding her components up, surely this was just one small sampling of the rest of her. In a stupor, I asked, “Is this all?”
Regretfully, the answer was that it was.
I struggled with this concept.
I kept wondering where it all was—her love, her care, her life? Our life? Where did it all go?
Was everything lost in the fire? Had I made a mistake? The anxiety of this irreversible final decision made me feel robbed in some way. How did I get her memories? Her relationships? Her recipes? Why is this all that’s left?
I sat in my therapist’s office a few days, grappling, trying to explain to him how this just didn’t make sense to me. I held my hands in my lap and looked at them. They never seemed big to me, but once I’d held the entire weight of a person reduced down into them, they felt like I must have a distorted view of how big they really were.
I told him how I couldn’t reconcile this equation. I tried with logic at first, since the facts are what great mathematical minds default to. At a funeral, it takes six pallbearers to carry a casket. The therapist debunked my logic with facts of his own—the weight of the coffin plus the physical weight of a human. I was back to square one of confusion. As was what usually happens when faced with math, I started to cry.
My therapist said to me, “All this heft you think is missing isn’t gone and lost forever just because you aren’t holding it in your hands.” He said that it wasn’t a matter of math at all. As he handed me some Kleenex, he explained that the weight is everything left over from what was preserved with her soul and taken with her for safekeeping. He told me to think about what a larger, more devastating tragedy it would be if how I was thinking this whole time was true.
If the loss of someone was 100% finite, and once they were laid to rest, everything they ever were was erased and gone?
I didn’t even realize I had been thinking about it that way, but when he said “erased” my chest tightened and the tears fell automatically. I couldn’t even fathom the idea of absolutely nothing. Suddenly, when I thought of holding the small box in my hands, it felt more like a reminder of her and not the remainder of everything she was.
It alleviated the panic attack I was on the verge of and slowed my tears. All I had been thinking about this whole time was weight, but there was a new weight lifted from me at that moment. I guess math and psychology really are best left to the professionals.
Now, when I think of spreading those ashes when the time is right, it won’t feel like letting go completely and forgetting her, but rather a reminder to myself that one day I will be completely blanketed in all her love again.