Although most of the rituals connected with my father’s death were completed, there was just one more left. I made a short trip to my mother’s along with my brother to carry his ashes to this river. Once again I was in the jungle that I love so much! We chose this place, the river Kopili, a three and a half hour drive from my home town, to not scatter, but place his ashes in a little bamboo basket to be transported by the river towards the ocean….. It’s a religious ritual presided by a priest. We (joined by my cousins from the village near the river) headed towards the river and the sight of the clear water, the brilliantly blue sky with patches of cloud, the surrounding greenery immediately made us feel that this was indeed the best place.
A cow grazed on the bank and not a shred of paper nor any discarded plastic bag marred the beauty of this tranquil spot. Most people from my area come here for the last ritual. It’s one of the most serene spots I’ve seen in our parts.
The priest and his helper made a little bamboo float which was decorated with fresh flowers, incense sticks and candles. My father’s ashes were placed on a bed of banana leaf inside a tiny bamboo basket. The basket was then placed on the float. Before the priest released it, we all stood in the water with a coin in our hands.
May you flow like the river
May no stone be an obstacle in your path
Till you reach the ocean…
I cannot reproduce the language used by the priest. The chanting, the meaningful words, the solemnity of the occasion moved us to tears. It was a most beautiful ceremony. That the priest knew my father made it even more so. Just before the float was released in the water we tossed our coins into the river–a symbolic gesture of paying the river for carrying the remains of the departed.
As it left I thought…I haven’t taken a picture! Because the water was deep and certainly not as placid as it appeared, I hadn’t risked taking the camera in the river. We took a quick dip in the river, a ritual which is part of the ceremony. A little later as we came out of the water, my brother-in-law noticed that the float wasn’t moving at all. It’d only gone a short distance.
That part of the river was deep so standing on the bank, he splashed water towards the float hoping that the ripples would help it to flow with the current. I ran towards it and quickly managed to get three shots. Then it started to move. Fast. Maybe the current wasn’t strong enough, maybe my father wanted to be with us for a little while longer…It was after all, the final goodbye.
We came away feeling a peace that comes after wishes fulfilled. The entire journey to the river and on the way back was pleasant and not spoiled by any incident. Even the weather couldn’t have been kinder. And the feeling that somewhere in the expanse of the never-ending jungle and the stretch of blue infinity, my father’s soul is finally at peace.