It was a beautiful summer afternoon. The mourners in the yard had gathered to celebrate the life of Jerry, a well-loved man. Family and friends wrote heart-felt good-bye messages onto balloons and released them into the deep-blue sky.
I was there to film highlights of the event: the balloon release, the speeches, the food, the hugs, the spirit of coming together. It was a very moving event.
The spreading of the ashes, however, at least for me, became one of those things that’s both tragic and comical at the same time.
Picture this: The widow takes her place in the garden with the urn in hand. The crowd draws closer to see. I crouch at the edge of the garden with my video camera to get a good shot.
The ashes get thrown, but suddenly, a gust of wind seizes the gray cloud...which quickly finds its way to me, downwind. I suddenly find myself with a mouth and nose full of human particles!! Realizing there’s a sizable crowd who’s watching, I try my best to suppress the natural instinct to sputter wildly and scream in panic...OMG. I am utterly disgusted but I hide the fact, out of respect not only for the widow and but also for the man whose incinerated remains have just entered my facial orifices.
This pretty much tops my Life’s Most Mortifying Moments list. Ever.
I was not the only one: the photographer was by my side and suffered the same fate. So at least I was not alone in this surreal experience.
I’ve had questions in my mind ever since:
Are human ashes toxic?
Is it possible that a particle of Jerry might still reside somewhere in my body to this day?
Should I do a detox?
I do learn something from every filming venture, and this was no exception. Note to self for future celebration-of-life-gigs: do NOT film downwind while the widow spreads her husband’s ashes in the garden. I am JUST SAYING.
I also learned that, like many things, it’s yet another example of something unanticipated, uncontrollable, and unchangeable, pretty much just like life (and death) itself.
And the most important lesson of all is this: while we’re here, no matter the circumstances, we would do best to find the humor and the joy.
Deep inside me, I know that Jerry would agree.