Ashes to Ashes, Dirtbag for Life

Story and Photos by Vico LaCava - vicolacava@gmail.com

Quick Change Photo ©Vico LaCava

In the thirty seconds I had between realizing that the funeral was today and stripping frantically out of my hot wet bathing suit (leaving it on the floor, soaking into the carpet) into my grandma’s petite black skirt suit (slightly wrinkled, tight around the waist), I honestly did not have time to process the longevity of eternal rest. My ongoing crusade for spontaneity and positivity had led me poolside, half baked on a Sunday, and it wasn’t until my friend Steve called and said “Where are you?” and I said “Where should I be?” and he said “At the temple.” that I remembered a tragic and dark world exists outside of my love-lit life. The funeral was for my good friend Alan’s mother, Sheri, who still, in my head, could not possibly be dead because on Christmas she gave me a poinsettia and nice ladies that give people poinsettias do not die in plane crashes. Nice ladies like that do not wince at the earth as it pulverizes and swallows their sweater-vested bones.

Steve saved me a seat at the temple, and I spotted him instantly among the crowd because, simply, the juxtaposition of a yamaka on the head of a mailman with “Dirtbag for Life” tattooed across his kneecaps was, at the very least, poetic. The room filled up quickly and an old man began to roll in stacks of folding chairs, panting, and Steve and I helped him set out enough chairs to seat everyone who stood sweaty against the back wall, weeping, wilting. Grieving is best done not on your feet.

I sat there in silence, doing nothing, smelling like chlorine and perfume, and watched as a grey haired man slowly approached the lectern. He introduced himself as Sheri’s husband and gave a well-rehearsed eulogy, only half in English, and then a slideshow of Sheri’s life played on a screen that was lowered from the ceiling. When the slides finished, he invited family members to come up and speak about his wife. They did, though their words were more obviously jerked by emotion and less possible to absorb.

Blood and Bones Photo ©Vico LaCava

I’d been wondering about the white plastic body cast since the moment it reflected fluorescent light off the widower’s chest while he recounted the first time he ever saw his wife smile. It was impossible to ignore, strapped over his black tailored suit, and though his words were moving and sincere, my brain could only project images of the crash onto the screen, through his eyes, as the plane hurled toward earth, as his back shattered in three places, as his neck snapped, as he looked over to Sheri, gripping her seat-belt, pale, as he heard only the crunch of metal on mountain in the helpless pit of his brain. There is nothing quite like death to get in the way of life.

Right as I thought my own pyrotechnic-drenched imagery would paralyze my mind in an infinite and unforgiving loop, the widower took a seat next to his son and put a bandaged arm around his shoulder. They would go on. They would sleep soon again, and then smile, and eventually laugh, and, with the same intensity of the crash, I saw them rising from the ashes. I saw a bond unbreakable, a love unconditional, a persistence motivational, and while they would never forget their loss, they would live.

It is my deepest, most sincere wish that Alan can also forgive the pilot for his carelessness, for his negligent mistake, and I hope devastatingly that the widower has the courage to take off again, to push forward on the control, and to forgive himself.


3 Responses to “Ashes to Ashes, Dirtbag for Life”

  1. Lisa says:

    Really beautiful, Vico.

  2. Seline says:

    Perfect emotional description. Amazing!

  3. Myron says:

    Excellent. Great read, that triggered similar memories Richly enjoyed.