The Cremation

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.


25 thoughts on “The Cremation

  1. no words can decribe how reading that made me feel
    except blessed, that you shared such an intimate time, proud that I know as my friend such an amazing human being you and Lance
    stunned that your so young and that you and lance have had to experience such sadness, such a huge transformation
    and honored that you would share your journey with all of us
    buckets of love

  2. Dear Nancy,
    You have been so generous in sharing your difficult life lessons with all of us. I feel so grateful.
    Thank you. With love, Sandra

  3. Nancy, I’ve never seen someone fulfill their marriage promise like this before, to this degree, and with such love. I hope you are incredibly… fulfilled… in that you seem to have kept your promise to Lance. He was able to trust you to carry him through to the other side. I’ve seen how parents care for children, and how people care for the elderly, but I’ve never seen a wife care for a husband like this. I’m not calling you a saint or anything, but as a woman, I just want to tell you “sacred job well done.” I admire and feel for what you’ve done here. Blessings, Echo xo

  4. Nancy,

    I continue to be touched, amazed and grateful for all your sharing and the change this has made in my life. Sending you and the entire family supportive thoughts. Thank you.

  5. Again, thank you for sharing this journey. I appreciate the words you’ve written, the photos, and the energy/the vibrational essence of your being – so open, loving and sincere. I also appreciate the deep joy allowed to be expressed and felt – shown so beautifully in the group photo. Blessings and love to you and to all…

  6. This is the one that got me in tears. I know you requested no “i’m sorry” – but I am really so sorry that you and your kids and all of Lances loved ones have had to endure this loss. Cancer sucks. But you rock.

    Love, love, love,

  7. You are amazing. You are an amazing awe-inspiring woman. You are so strong and so beautiful. And you are a GREAT writer! I love you!

  8. Dearest Nancy- I simply have to ditto what everyone before me has said, all so eloquently! Your depth of love & compassion is extraordinary!
    -gina f

  9. Speechless. You take my breath away. You really are, as Lauren stated, an amazing, awe-inspiring woman. XOXO

  10. Nancy,
    You have been in my thoughts so much lately. Thank you again for your heartfelt words and the levels to which you continue to share your experience. You have made such a difference to so many…..all my love, gina g

  11. Incredible. Thank you for sharing this raw, emotional, inspiring and real journey with us all. I have no question that you are one of the most amazing women, wives, and mothers that this world has ever known!

  12. Nancy, there is so much love, and grace, and wisdom here. And in all that you’ve written about this experience with Lance. Like everyone else, I’m very touched, and I admire your courage and honesty. Please keep writing! Sending you love. xo

  13. I respect and admire the love you have shown Lance. Thank you for sharing your journey. I Love you and thank you for your words! May we all learn something from your experience. Jen

  14. What an amazing, life altering experience this was. Thank you Nancy, Lance and everyone for sharing this beautiful journey together. Love you all!

  15. This one got me too. How painful this undoubtably was, but how utterly beautiful too. Thank you for sharing your experience. Love to you and the kiddos.

  16. Unbearably sad, unforgettably beautiful. Thank you for sharing with us such an amazing and heartbreaking journey. You are truly amazing. Love to you, Lance and your children xo

  17. Nancy, you have such a clear and beautiful voice… I hope you continue to share your thoughts and feelings on this site. Please know how much I appreciate reading about where you are in the grieving process. I love you dearly. Nancy, there is a frog in our garden pond that began croaking so loudly right after Lance died… I like to imagine that this is Lance. I love that frog.

  18. nancy, not a day has gone by without my thinking of Lance. so many little daily things trigger the memories, from dylan tunes (la vita), geeks in five fingers (lance is still the only friend i knew who actually bought into barefoot running nonesense), house projects (chop saw), and like today i ran sobo trail Lance would have liked. i pictured him in front (as usual) with his skinny legs and steady pace. i picture his subtle smile a lot… luv ya! hatch

  19. Wow! I am so grateful again for your beautifully worded, heart felt descriptions of your deepest emotions. Our culture shies away from feelings so much that sometimes it’s hard to remember what to do with them. You are helping us to remember that we will survive even when we feel like we might not. I’ve been thinking about you a lot as we approach the date that bonds us: July 16, the day our little girls were supposed to come, but weren’t quite ready. A happy memory among the sad ones. Your words helped me then and do now as well. Wishing you peace, love and a celebration of Amelie’s birth coming up. Hugs, Heather

  20. Wow, thanks so much for sharing. It is one thing to make promises to our spouses but to carry them out with such courage and grace is beautiful.I feel the love. 🙂

  21. i love you nance., you are amazing that you experienced everything through, it’s important to finish and although lance will live on forever in us and around us he has departed the earth and it’s grounded-ness, he is a cellestial spirit.
    i say we plan an epic trip to one of his favorite spots and take the kids and have a journey like no other., lance would look down and be there with us. no doubt, just in another way., i think he would love it.
    i say egypt! keegan has also always been fascinated with egypt and he loved being around lance. i miss your laugh and our walks and talks., many kisses and hugs!

  22. Nancy, I feel so deeply touched that you have shared this amazingly intimate and previously scary experience with us all. You all have rasied the bar in what it means to die well. And to mourn in technicolor, the full spectrum of human experience. I have never seen such connection between friends and family when dealing with such a loss as I have with you. It is a thing of beauty, and uplifts all who are blessed enough to witness. And your courage Nancy, really, it’s as if the supersize way of life Lance chose to live has found a new home in you. I cannot wait to see where it takes you and your family. You all remain in our thoughts. I just vividly dreamed about you last night! (There were lots of people around you giving you love is all I remember…)
    Peace and light,

  23. Nancy,

    I am deeply touched by your ability to share all of this and I feel fortunate to call you a friend. You are a wonderful person. Thank you once again. I just spent some time in Alaska and thought of Lance and you all frequently as I looked at the beautiful and majestic scenery. May love and strength always be with you.


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