NONFICTION

Two Tablespoons of Tim

Turner’s Creek, Kent County, Maryland. E.V. Collins

I once read of a man who grieved so for his wife that he put her ashes into capsules and took one with the rest of his medication every day. Others thought that was disgusting but I understood. If I had my daughter’s ashes, I might not be able to let them go. I might rub some in my hair, have a little snort now and then. Lick my fingertip and taste just a pinch. Bake some into brownies. Anything to keep her with me.

You never know what we’ll do. We’ve lost the filter that kept us behaving like normal people. My friend, Bonnie, carefully measured out portions of her son’s ashes and took them around the world, reverently scattering “Two Tablespoons of Tim” in the most beautiful places she could find.

Another friend introduced me to her son by handing me the cardboard box his ashes were in and saying, “This is Colin. Colin, meet Eileen.”

Then there was Marge. She’d driven a long way to the retreat in her old van with a kayak on top. She’d planned stops along her route to paddle in rivers, a passion she’d shared with her son, now sprinkling his ashes. On the last day of the retreat, Marge handed me a medicine bottle with her name and prescription for Digoxin still on the label. The bottle contained some of her son’s ashes. She knew I was planning a bike ride Alaska- something I’d signed up for before my daughter died and was now doing because the training rides left me exhausted and able to sleep. Marge asked me to find a special river and sprinkle her son’s ashes. I was honored to be trusted with this sacred task. I sent her a photograph of the river and a description of the place which she put into an album she kept. We will never have a new photograph of our children, so we learn to make do. This was Marge’s way.

I have no ashes, but I sat alone with the casket. There was a little hole at the bottom, a Jewish tradition. I Kept my finger in there until they rolled it away for burial. It was as close as I could get to her.

We might howl at the moon, tear our clothing, throw ourselves on their graves, starve ourselves, or use food as an opiate to soothe ourselves into obesity.

We might even laugh, although never at a suicide joke. There would never be anything funny about that. We would never teach a child to play hangman or laugh at a cartoon stick-figure dangling from a rope, bold X s for eyes. We would never point an index finger at our temple, thumb at a right angle, to mime or discontent at some minor inconvenience. We would turn off that rerun of Saturday night live, where Fred commits yabba-dabba do-icide, knowing what was coming and not wanting to be witness to it. Because even Fred Flintstone could make us weep. Or rage against the insensitivity of the skit writers.

Or, if we find our way to others, like us, living with the unfathomable pain of losing a child to suicide, we might gather in communion. Feed one another, hold each other up, become the trusses to bear the unfathomable weight of this collective sorrow. Maybe even allow ourselves a wistful, fleeting smile at the excruciating, poignant possibility of two tablespoons of Tim.

Excerpt adapted from an essay, Two Tablespoons of Tim, Published in Reed Magazine, Issue 153. Nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Baltimore native battling fire ants in Florida. Award winning essayist. Pushcart nominee. Writes because it’s cheaper than therapy. www.eileenvorbachcollins.com

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