A very special Scattering of Ashes

Committal Ceremony for Glyn Neal Ewen

The ceremony commissioned by Trish Ewen to remember her husband Glyn and commit his ashes to the sea is one of the ceremonies that has stayed with me over the years.

Glyn died tragically in a climbing accident on Mt. Baker on September 2, 2001. On the day of his Committal Ceremony, Glyn would have been 50 years old. As with many people who find their way to acceptance around such a death, Glyn’s wife Trish had to move through feelings of powerlessness before she could transform her pain into positive emotional awareness.

Immediately upon meeting Trish I had the clear sense that this ceremony needed to be as much about her as it was about Glyn.  It would serve as a signpost of sorts.  A symbolic way of empowering Trish as she clarified new directions in her life.  And to help her take direct and purposeful steps forward.

Trish was definitely ready to fly again!

The ceremony was dignified, respectful, and open.  At the interview, Trish had shared wonderful stories with me about Glyn; stories that were truthful, honest, and real.  Through her words and the letters she gave me to read, I was able to form a picture of Glyn as a man, a husband, a father, and well, just himself.

I enjoyed writing and delivering the eulogy for this unique man.  It celebrated Glyn’s strengths, honoured his personal obstacles, and included some humour too.  Because, like all of us, Glyn had his quirks.  And his quirks helped to make him who he was.

The event wouldn’t have been what it was, without the circle of women who had come to stand with Trish and her daughter Morgan. In an email to Trish afterwards, I said, “One cannot force a ceremony to be profound, it is the participants who make it so.”  This was certainly true about these women. What a loving, sensitive, and fun group.

Following my eulogy and the words I spoke about Trish and Morgan’s journey over these last seven years, we gathered on the shoreline for the scattering of Glyn’s ashes.

First I asked each guest to touch their hands to the vessel containing Glyn’s remains.  The vessel was returned to Trish. And then her good friend Debbie passed around a bag of rose petals. Each guest held a handful of petals in her hands while I read a time-honoured verse of committal. At the close of the verse, Trish waded into the sea to return Glyn to the elements.

I have such a poignant image in my mind of her facing out to sea with Glyn’s ashes floating away trailed by pink and yellow rose petals. The colours of the setting sun caught both the ashes and the petals.  The light was magnificent and somehow gentle.

As I stood in the water behind Trish, I could tell from her body language that her heroic spirit had emerged from a life turned upside down by Glyn’s tragic and sudden death.  Returning to the shoreline and to the wonderful women who were silently watching the rose petals dance in the tidal currents, it was evident that they too felt Trish’s peace and liberation.cheers-0

Following the committal ceremony we had a big communal feast there on the beach.  Trish opened a well-aged bottle of something wonderful that Glyn had been saving.  We toasted Glyn’s memory, and also raised our glasses to a new beginning that had grown out of an ending.

Trish surprised us by giving each woman a stunning Bird of Paradise flower and a starfish plate.  And I must say I was overwhelmed at the Tibetan singing bowl she gifted me with.  Its tone and pitch is simply amazing.

Thank you Trish and Morgan for trusting me to participate in such an important part of your life.

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