Ashes

The ceremony with the luminaries is very similar to last year’s, except that I am feeling the pain of loss a lot more acutely. My face is somber as my eyes scan the table filled with drawings, letters, and memories of those we’ve lost.

As we gather around the bonfire, Francis begins to sing: “We rise again from ashes, from the good we’ve failed to do…” His voice is sweet and pure. One by one, people step forward and toss their luminaries into the flames. “We rise again from ashes, to create ourselves anew…”

I decide not to read my letter to Kimberly aloud; it’s too private. In it, I admit that right after she died, I was really angry with her for not being safer. I tell her how much I miss her salacious grin and goofy jokes. And I promise her that that I am going to make the world a better place, in her honor.

In the surrounding silence, Francis’ voice sounds louder than it actually is. “If all the world is ashes, then must our lives be true…”

When it’s my turn, I step forward, clutching my luminary tightly. I pause and take a deep breath, my heart aching, before throwing it into the flames. I watch them envelop the paper bag, my words scorching and turning into ash and smoke.

“An offering of ashes, an offering to you.”

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