Two summers ago, I was sitting at my kitchen table studying the Christian Science Bible Lesson. The subject for the week was “Matter.” From my study that morning, I felt a strong conviction that life is spiritual. As I was just finishing my reading, I looked up and gazed out the window. It was a beautiful, early fall morning, and the tidal basin on which my kids and I live was a perfect picture of stillness. I felt the peace of the morning.
After a few moments of basking in that stillness, a strong, clear thought came to my mind, almost as if it had been spoken: “It’s time to let go.” I suppose in the back of my mind that I had been thinking about my late husband and the recent five-year anniversary of his passing. But I knew this thought was compelling something deeper than simply letting go of missing him.
I felt there was some unfinished business that needed attending to. And for me, it had to begin by taking the box containing my husband’s ashes out of my bedroom closet and finally letting go of them and all that they represented to me. My husband’s life was going on, and I knew intuitively that there wasn’t anything contained in that box that truly defined or belonged to my husband. So why had I continued to hold on to it?
That morning the tide was high, the sun was warm, the ocean was still, and kayaks were still on the beach. I quickly gathered up my gear, loaded the box into a kayak, and paddled out to what was my husband’s favorite fishing ground.
As I poured the ashes overboard, I felt free and unafraid. Seagulls flew overhead, reminding me to look “up,” look higher, toward infinite possibilities and endless divine Life. I saw more clearly that my husband’s individuality was defined and maintained by God, divine Love. As Mary Baker Eddy states, “The real house in which ‘we live, and move, and have our being’ is Spirit, God, the eternal harmony of infinite Soul” (Pulpit and Press, p. 2). We exist entirely in Spirit, not in matter.
I recognized that the box of ashes represented nothing more than a limited, matter-bound sense of life that I was holding on to. For example, one of the main reasons I’d kept the box around for so long was because I wanted to feel a connection to my husband. I thought that if I no longer had it, this connection would somehow be broken. But that connection was a “fleshly tie” (see Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 57) that I was seeking—the daily human touches, like the smell of his clothes or the sound of his voice on a voice-mail message. As comforting as those connections may be, they don’t contain my husband’s true and enduring spiritual qualities.
For me, ashes symbolize the belief that man is created from dust, lives only in matter, and then returns to dust. As I began to see that life is spiritual, I recognized the illogical nature of that “dust to dust” theory, and let it go. With this misconception out of my way, I began to feel more of God's healing grace. Every day my children and I witness in large and small ways that the spiritual qualities my husband expressed, such as unselfishness, tenderness, joy, humor, creativity, strength, and integrity are all right here finding expression in our lives. They are tangible evidences that life goes on uninterrupted and untouched by material circumstances. These evidences bring a great deal of laughter and appreciation for my late husband’s uniqueness. For example, my kids have begun to express creativity and joy in new ways—my son has become interested in entrepreneurship, one of my daughters really began to explore her love of jazz music (a favorite of my husband's), and my other daughter has devoted much time and effort to her athletic endeavors.
God was showing me what I needed to do to take steps toward divine Spirit and away from matter.
Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “Where God is we can meet, and where God is we can never part” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 131). It is through spiritual sense, not the material senses, that we discern more about God. But this doesn’t mean that we are left without a way to understand and feel connected to eternal Life and its glorious possibilities.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul writes: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (I Corinthians 2:9, 10). On that prayer-filled morning, God was showing me what I needed to do to take steps toward divine Spirit and away from matter. All I had to do was be receptive, let go of seeing life as limited and mortal, and recognize that divine Life is eternal. Much joy followed that recognition.
Over the years, I've grown into the roles of businesswoman, entrepreneur, and financial manager—all of which I learned from watching my husband. In everything he did, my husband expressed such kindness, dedication, and intelligence. I now realize that not only do I have these same wonderful qualities, but that they live on in infinite form and expression. Though it’s not the same as having my husband present, embracing the spiritual qualities he expressed has turned out to be a much richer experience than I could have imagined.
Katie Martin lives in Newburyport, Massachusetts.