One of the most excruciating conversations Lance and I had (and I want to encourage ALL couples to have NOW…among others I will share in the future) is that of burial vs cremation. Lance and I had talked about it casually over the years…in a very “when we are old, what would you want me to do?” kind of way. Not in a very serious or detailed way at all.
As we were nearing the inevitable, I was desperate to know what Lance wanted. It was on my mind a lot but as I said before I was trying to take Lance’s lead. What I wanted Lance to know was that we (the kids and I) would always keep his spirit alive not only on a daily basis but that we would honor him in many ways throughout the years.
One of the ways was to spread Lance’s ashes to all his favorite places in the world since travel was one of his greatest passions. Some of the places on that list: Telluride (where we were married), Bali (where he had spent time and we always dreamed of spending a year with the kids), Nepal (he was obsessed with Everest), Egypt (Zach and Lance always bonded big time over their fascination with all things Egyptian), Lake City (where Lance spent all but one 4th of July and loved and adored his Gentry relatives), Hanalei (our dreamy last family vacation), Israel (another favorite place of his). We did finally have this conversation, through an emotionally painful tear-filled talk. Lance liked the idea as much as anyone could under the circumstances.
The day of the cremation was something I hadn’t exactly planned. Lance’s childhood friend asked me if I wanted his help getting Lance to the crematorium. I had vaguely thought that I would take him there myself in the truck but it was 30 minutes away and I was worried about the truck breaking down. I gladly accepted the offer and “my girls” arranged for “the guys” to meet at the Shambhala Center to carry Lance’s body down the three flights of stairs. What ensued next was his friends wanting to see Lance through this final process. They all considerately asked if I was okay with them coming (of course I was) and all five guys jumped in the mini van and surrounded Lance.
Just a little background…Lance and I met in 1990 at a Grateful Dead show in LA. So our dear friend Paolo (who also happened to be at the same show but we did not know at the time), burned the CD from the concert and they played it for Lance’s final ride. They even had beers. My friend Tiphaine and I followed behind them.
Once we arrived at the crematorium the atmosphere was very sobering. It was industrial and so final. UGH! I had hoped I would be ready by this time but in truth I wasn’t. I even joked (but was kind of half serious) that I wanted to keep Lance for a few more days and the kids new job could be to replace the dry ice. Later, Paolo said he was thinking the same thing.
We gathered around him, stacked up our hands one by one and said our final goodbyes. But then I realized (besides keeping his hat) that I didn’t want his clothes to go in the fire. I felt like we come into this world with no clothes and should go back the same way. I also didn’t want his clothes to be part of the ashes. I just wanted it to be him. So we undressed him. We left one eagle feather and the white Shambhala sash.
The final part is almost indescribable. All seven of us, with our arms wrapped around each other, watched as the person who tends to the bodies, put Lance in a giant kiln type oven.
Now I have seen many bodies on the pyres along the burning ghats of Varanasi (India) but to see the love of your life…there is no comparison. I have no words to describe what that was like. I don’t regret being there because I wanted to be a part of every step of the process. I guess I needed to see the finality of it and as I said before I never wanted Lance to be alone but it was hands down the hardest part of all.
When we returned to Boulder, we were not ready to part with each other. We had all been part of an extremely personal process for three days and this day in particular had been an intense, emotional day. We needed each other to help lift our spirits. So we went to a roof top restaurant and had a drink. We said many cheers to Lance and reminisced about the man we all and will forever love.