Sometimes life gives you a devastating blow.. It is so sudden, so unexpected that it sends you reeling as if you had been ejected from a merry-go- round. My wife died early one morning from a massive heart attack quite unexpectedly. Over the next few days I walked through a cloud of misery numbed by the tragedy of her death. It was a period of gathering the family, rendering my wife to ashes. I respected her wishes. The local priest and the church's congregation were well represented at the cremation ceremony. My wife was well respected in the community for her services to our local church. Then the finality with the urn containing her ashes delivered to our home. The urn I carefully place it in her room, with a final kiss…... I closed the door.
Two days later the memories of our life together slowly captured my thoughts. We had always done most daily domestic activities together; the union of our two spirits was united. That night for the first time since I placed the urn on a table in her room I felt compelled to take a look. I opened the door and stood in front of the urn. Without me making a sound the urn, through a wave of emotional fibers, impressed on me never to leave it alone. From that time on before I turned in for the night I went to her room, bowed before the urn and kissed it. This nightly act seemed to envelop me in the most pleasant dreams of moments in the past we spent together.
This was a period in my life where I was committed twice a week to take a daily return train journey to the city some 100 miles away. I had a season ticket and the days of the week were preprogrammed three months in advance. I have just started a new three month programme. The days were Monday and Friday. I left by 9 o’clock and returned at 5 o’clock. Today was Saturday, usually gardening day with my wife. On this particular day I did not have the strength or will power to pick up gardening tools. From the garden shed door I looked at our friends, all shiny and clean waiting to go to work. I remembered we had spent hours arguing about christening each tool.We thought they deserved to be personified as they were part of our family and did their fair share of the garden work. Their names were picked by a selection process where each tool was placed before us and names were given on a rotation basis. I noticed she always picked the tools she had named. I closed the door saddened I would not be using any today, particularly Horace, the spade, as I had some digging scheduled. As I turned towards the abode my next week's journey to the city flashed across my mind. Yes, I have to take the urn with me.
On entering my cottage I immediately went to the computer and reserved two first class seats for a round trip to the city...Monday. As I pressed pay, a stream of nostalgic thoughts cascaded over me. Occasionally my wife traveled with me up to the city on the early train. When she did, she saw her sister who lived there. Not one of our favorite people. A large woman with an unpleasant streak of jealousy that dominated her character. On the few occasions we had invited her down to the country this defect in her comportment had shown up by several outburst of rage at us claiming we had secretly invited two of her friends to join us on a walking tour. The outbursts were so outrageous that we canceled the tour. With my wife dead I had no wish to see her again. My thoughts reverted to the urn. I needed a smart carrying bag. Luckily I found one at the bottom of the bedroom cupboard, a very suitable hold-all that somebody years ago gave us as a wedding present. With the elegant hold all and a first class seat the urn was ready to travel with me in style.
Monday morning found me contentedly sitting on the train reading a report that later in the day I had to comment on. Beside me, on the seat was the urn which I had taken out of its holder. I thought my wife would be pleased. The carriage, as always, on a Monday morning was full of workers going up to the city either for day or the week. I must admit I noted a few stares at the urn place in the middle of the seat next to me.. They were a couple of passengers I knew. I nodded my greetings. I also heard the odd whisper about how curious, at the same time selfish it was taking up a whole seat. Things got slightly bizarre when the controller turned up. I handed him my two tickets.
“Where is your wife?”
“Her ashes are in the urn”
“Wait a minute, you have paid for a first class ticket to put your wife urn on a seat.”
“Yes, I know it seems unusual but she died only recently and as we always did things together I could not just leave her at home.”
“This is a highly unusual situation, in fact I have never encountered it before. True you have paid for the seat, but to put your wife’s urn on a seat next to you is a little macabre to say the least. It might be against the regulations, disturbance of the peace or something like that. I will have to talk to my superior when we arrive.”
By this time most of the passengers in the first class wagon had heard the conversation. I distinctly heard various comments such as it is so romantic and others thought it disgusting it should not be allowed then suddenly from the back of the carriage a clear and shrill voice was heard.
“Monsieur I am saddened by your loss, but can I speak to her and ask what it is like when we have departed from this world”.
The woman and the question had the carriage thrust into a silence only achieved in certain monasteries. The atmosphere was one fraught with the anticipation of my reply. For a few seconds I was wordless, my brain calling for an answer.
“Madame, please come forward so that I might see you.”
I heard a rushing sound from the back of the carriage as a woman of about forty made her way to where I was sitting. The first thing I noticed were her clear blue eyes that dominated her elegant and well formed facial features. She had dark hair falling over her shoulders. The hair style was set off by a white shirt extending up to her neck shrouded in a smart navy blue business suit, the overall profile was pleasant to look upon.
“Madam, if it pleases you you may direct your question to my wife’s urn. I cannot guarantee you will have a spiritual reply. But they say the dead are capable of communicating in strange ways”.
By this time I noticed several people were standing to get a closer look. I felt slightly disturbed that this woman had asked to try and communicate with my dead wife’s ashes. A total stranger, somebody who never knew my wife when she was living. Maybe that is where the beauty of the jest lay. She approached the urn, made the sign of the cross and repeated her question in a soft and gentle voice. Then she stood there in silence for about five minutes. During that time her face lit up as though she was being affected by some great happiness. Her remarkable blue eyes took on a color of a deeper blue as if they were looking inwards to find her spirit. It was a moving moment. I could tell the passengers looking on were touched by the change in the woman's visage. As her moment of silence came to an end she bowed and turned to me with a thank you. I could not resist asking.
“Did you find the answer to your question?”
“No not directly but it was the most powerful and peaceful moment I have ever experienced. Your wife must have been a very good person, full of consideration for others.”
At that moment another passenger spoke. “I would like to spend a few minutes with your wife’s urn.”
This time it was a man. I guess his age is about the early sixties. He had a rather nasty blood stain down the side of his left face. In his speech I detected a slight stutter. Looking at him I had a strong feeling of pity as the mark on his face must be a heavy cross to bear. He was dressed in city clothes, white shirt, a smart tie, he even wore a hat. One thing I did notice in the few seconds he attached my attention were his hands placed before him. They were beautifully formed with figures that should be destined to play the violin or piano. I did not have time to reply to him before he was standing in front of the urn with closed eyes.
I quietly said. “You must hurry as we will soon arrive at the last stop.”
He spent a few minutes, head bowed, looking at the coffin. The people looking at him could tell he was deeply engrossed in communication with my wife’s spirit. When he stood in front of the urn it was clear he was in a trance. As the train slowed to negotiate its arrival in the station. He turned to me and thanked me, saying your wife must have been a beautiful person. With that he returned to his seat. I put the urn in the hold all.
I left the train and walked to the office mulling over the scene on the train. My wife’s ashes appeared to have some magical powers of being able to communicate to the land of the living. The two people on the train had found an intense satisfaction in standing before the urn. It would be interesting to see what happened on the way home. My day was spent in a rather frustrating discussion regarding an advertising campaign that my company was trying to convince one of our most important clients of its merits.
After my experience on the train I decided to keep the urn hidden. But on the evening train I placed it on the reserved seat beside me in full view of the other passengers. Sure enough when the evening controller stopped to control the tickets a similar conversation ensued as I handed him two tickets.
“What’s in the urn, don’t tell me it's your wife’s ashes. If so, please accept my condolences. I see that you have paid for the seat, but it is most bizarre and if I might say a little distasteful”.
Yes, they are my wife’s ashes.
By this time I hear whispering around me. Was this not the man on the train this morning? Before I had the time to think about covering the urn up I heard two voices asking if I would accept their present in front of the urn. Without giving it much thought I said yes but only one at the time. The first person was a smartly dressed woman, her hair held in a bun showing under what appeared to be a very expensive looking hat. She bowed in front of the urn, removed her hat and stood in silence for five minutes deep in prayer. During that five minutes her rather stern, serious visage transformed into a face of happiness and contentment. It had a beautiful aura about it. She thanked me and gave her place up to a man. Before he stood in front of the urn he looked at me. He had large dark eyes that seemed to blaze with a fierce intensive glare like a panther’s eyes that was prowling for his supper. For a second it quite disturbed me. He then turned his attention to the urn. He stood tall, standing like a soldier on parade. His whole bearing was one of strength and I sensed a streak of brutality. He was a handsome man with a head of lush black swept back from his forehead. He wore a dark black coat. He must have stayed over ten minutes looking at the urn. During that ten minutes I could see him reciting something to himself. It was quite moving. As he left to regain his seat he bowed to me and said your wife was a remarkable woman. Before the journey ended four more people asked to stand in front of the urn. I could see by their faces that each person found a certain peace communicating with the ashes of my wife. This new world of spirits surviving death was a universe completely unknown to me. But one thing I felt sure about was that the people standing in front of my wife’s urn received some spiritual message.
On Friday of that week, as was my habit, I took the early train and as previously placed the urn on the booked seat beside me. It was soon obvious that the news about the urn had traveled along the channels of gossip. I was overwhelmed by several requests from passengers that wished to stand for five minutes before the urn. In fact a line was forming up. I sat there in a daze as people bowed to the urn, stood for five minutes in silent communication, and then walked back to their place.s The queue had lengthened by the time the controller came. He was surprised to see so many people queuing in the carriage corridor. It made his work more difficult. He soon found the reason. After a number of passengers made way for him, he approached me.
“What’s going on, oh, it's the man with the urn?”
“People just want to spend five minutes communicating with my wife’ s ashes.”
“Well we cannot have this number of people queuing in the train’s corridor. It's a potentially dangerous situation. I spoke with my boss and he agreed that as you pay for the seat you are entitled to occupy it as you like, but with an urn he feels it is inappropriate. He suggested I talk to you and persuade you not to bring the urn on the train.”
“I have to think about it as clearly a number of people want to communicate with my wife’s ashes.”
When we finally arrived I realized the event of communicating with my wife’s ashes had taken on uncontrollable proportions. I knew I had to rethink my idea of wanting to travel with the urn. At the office I canceled the seat beside me on the evening train and exchanged my ticket for an early train. This early train never carried many passengers. At the weekend I would think about whether to continue traveling with the urn. The next morning I could not believe my eyes when I saw on the front page of the local Saturday newspaper the headlines: Advertising executive causes chaos this morning on train with his wife’s ashes.
There I was in a photo greeting a passenger that requested a five minute audience with his wife’s urn. Below was a short article describing the event.
At the time of reading all this I was standing in the hall. I needed to sit down. Unknown to me there must have been a reporter on the morning train. Now things were being taken out of my hands, no doubt local reporters would be soon at my door. My immediate thought was to stop taking the urn on the train. This decision disturbed me as I had seen several faces being transformed with a tranquility seldom found. I needed to talk to our priest, a man who always enjoyed a conversation with my wife. As a couple we were not very regular church-goers favoring gardening on a Sunday. But my wife was a devoted helper in all the church functions including making sure the church was always decorated with flowers of the season, many from our garden.
At ten I was sitting in the vicarage having a morning coffee while relating the complete history of the urn. The vicar was a man blessed with an intellectual curiosity and a profound understanding of many of man’s weaknesses. He was greatly admired in the parish and was often seen on his bicycle with his long white hair flowing in the wind. Today as I sat in front of him I noticed by the deep concentration of his eyes he was examining me carefully as my tale unfolded. Once finished I remained silent.
He spoke. “Your wife was an extraordinarily good woman. From your tale it appears her spirit will find no peace until she believes she has completed her deeds of compassion unfulfilled while she was living. This is why people communicating with her ashes are finding peace and tranquillity. Most interesting.” He paused.
“I would suggest, given all the publicity, we move the urn to the church and inform the local press. I think you will be more than surprised at the number of people who will come. I will make sure it has a prominent place.
Oh! In fairness to God, to our church, and its poor servants I think a place to receive contributions would be appropriate.”
“Father thank you for that in taking a heavy load off my mind. I find immense joy in knowing my wife is sensing the act of giving in her after life.