It was heavier than Bob was expecting and the lid did not go on that easy. Bob had come to the conclusion that the worst noise in the world was the metal on metal sound the lid made when screwed on. “It feels weird to hold a person, what was left over at least, in your hands,” Bob told his secretary. He stood there in the doorway of his office holding the urn containing the ashes of Mrs. Foster. Her funeral was later on in the afternoon and her ashes were to be buried in the Memorial Garden on the side of the church.
The Memorial Garden was a special spot. It was different than a columbarium but still marked the resting spot of many of members. The process was new to Bob, since this was his first committal at the garden. This is the way his Sexton told him what would happen. The Sexton took a post-hole digger and created a hole in the garden. The committal would take place but near the end that pastor would take the ashes and dump them into the hole. This made Bob nervous. This was not only the first time he held a person in his hands but also the first time he would literally place ashes in the ground. The scripture fell hard on his heart, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”
The funeral went fine. As the crowd moved out of the sanctuary and over the garden Bob’s palms started to sweat and his pulse picked up. All the horrible things that could happen were going through his brain. What if he dropped the urn? What if he missed the hole? What would these people, Mrs. Foster’s family and friends, think if he somehow desecrated their loved one? This was more ministerial responsibility than he wanted and this was not covered in Divinity School.
The moment came and while in his black, Wesley inspired robe, Bob knelt down next to the fresh dirt hole. He carefully unscrewed the lid and tried to hold back his cringe as the lid made that horrible sound again. He placed the lid on the ground as soft has he could on the brick pathway. While grabbing the bottom and the top of the urn he mumbled a little prayer up to God and tipped it over.
Bob was not ready for what happened next. Like placing a large amount of flower into half created cookie dough, a large chunk of the ashes hit the bottom of the hole. When it did dust came swirling up and out of it and surrounded Bob’s feet, robe, and face. It was a fine mist and he thought no one really noticed and Bob, doing his ministerial professional best, continued on with the placement of the ashes. When the urn was empty Bob stood up and said the final prayer. He dismissed the crowd with a benediction and shook hands with the family.
After all the pleasantries he went back into the office. The look on his secretary’s said it all. Bob’s right leg had a fine grayish, white dusting on it which covered his shoe and went up, stopping right before his knee. His hands had a gritty feeling to them but the worst was in his mouth. Bob ground his teeth together only to discover it felt like he had eaten a little bit of sand. He quickly went to the water fountain and rinsed seven times, since it is a holy number. He dusted off his robe, washed his hands and said good-bye to the office. He walked across the yard to the parsonage ready to find something a little stronger to wash Mrs. Foster down.