Certain rituals in our lives help to mark special occasions, rites of passage, or simply to make sense of what we cannot understand or control. Such was the case with the sudden death of my stepson, Matthew, over three years ago, which I have written about in previous posts.
Taking one’s life regardless of age or circumstances is a tragedy and devastating for those left behind to wonder why. We must celebrate life as precious and continue to remember those who were part of our lives. While they may not be here physically, our shared memories live on.
A group of us, including family and close friends, was finally able to gather to spread Matthew’s ashes up in the bush, looking towards the nearby mountains. It was his happy place. Constant lockdowns and ongoing COVID outbreaks curtailed this final goodbye for the past three years. I would often say hello to Matt as I vacuumed around the box containing his ashes.
His Dad finally said we needed to do this, so within a matter of less than a month, it was decided everyone could make it on the long weekend being the Queen’s Birthday public holiday. It also coincided with the official opening of the snow season on the nearby mountain where Matt loved to snowboard. A fitting tribute.
We arranged to meet for lunch before heading up the hills. The nine of us, all with different recollections of Matt. I took a framed photo used at his funeral, where he is grinning merrily, dressed in his snowboarding gear, to sit on the table. We bought him a pint and raised a glass to Matt’s memory.
A nice touch was when the bistro manager said she recognised his face. I said he lived in the city but spent much time on the mountain in winter. Apparently, she worked up on the ski lifts during the season.
The weather was atrocious, but we thought Matt might have the last laugh by sending snow up to the hills. Our ascent up the hills was icy, wet and foggy. It did not snow on us, but the cloud was so low it blocked the usual beautiful mountain views. It provided a surreal backdrop as we huddled on the veranda of the weekend shack. Each of us took turns spreading Matt’s ashes and saying our last goodbye.
His good mate, who owns the holiday property, had bought a mini-keg of pale ale to enjoy afterwards. I suddenly felt teary but had a real sense that Matthew’s spirit was with us and was where he belonged.
His good mate has set up a bar inside above the wood heater with a digital display of photos, and a snowboard mounted on the wall, in honour of Matt’s memory. We all need to find our own ways of keeping those we love close to us in a meaningful way.
We departed back down the hills, knowing it was a final goodbye. The landscape, in all its bleakness, seemed appropriate at that moment.
If anyone you know is struggling and needs help with anxiety, depression or suicide prevention, contact the two Australian organisations below: