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Gold Dust & Ashes

There is not much of life left after its burnt - live it today.

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I could see smoke drifting from my neighbours back yard – I had to hurray. Not for the reason that your thinking – their place wasn’t on fire – there was a whole lot of stuff that I wanted to be on fire.

I’d taken the opportunity of the lockdown of 2020 to do some tidying up. My shed had needed some work – some reorganising to use the space. Also, we feel good when things are tidy when disorganised space is now neat. I find it helps the mind relax and move on to more important things.

It had been one of those sheds where I had thrown a few things in when I moved, but now after several years, it was no longer the residences of just a few things. I pulled everything out and started again. In the process, I found a cupboard at the back with a pile of old documents. There was old diaries, tax returns, docket books, bank statements and health reports. Then there were the production files for old projects and business notes from industry long since departed. All of it dated back over 20 years. Combined, they were on paper the summary of 10 years of my life. There was no need to hang on to them.

There are areas of Australia where burning off is prohibited, I, fortunately, was not in one of those but there are just a few periods over the year when we can. As I write this, we are coming up to fire season again.  The opportunity to clean up the past would be lost for another six months.  I had seen my neighbour building up his pile of garden debris and recognised that here was the opportunity to clear up the past.

I had seen the smoke I hoped I had not left it too late, and the “fires of hell” would be strong enough to clear up my boxes. The fire was low, but by carefully adding my documents page by page, I soon had the fire roaring again and added great piles of paper to become ash.

When you assign the documents of a past life to oblivion – before they go, you quickly glance over them, and the memories come flooding back, who you were, what was meaningful and sometimes reminders of the mistakes made. Yet off they go, and in no time there is a tiny pile of ash at your feet. I am always surprised by how small.

I had the same feeling when  I recently buried a close friend of mine. The burial urns hold a mear 3 litres of our ash. Not much really after a lifetime of living.

My first cremation memory came from a book by Ion Idriess – “Gold Dust & Ashes”. He published 1947 – “The Romantic Search for New Guinea Gold”. The story concluded with ashes of Cecil John Levien flung from a light plane over the jungle valleys he had spent his life exploring – over time to become gold again.

I remember feeling sad and confused  – there would be no place where anyone could say here is “CJ” – no one could go and “be” with him. Bits of him were all over the world and would be lost and sent back to the earth. No one could put Humpty back together again. I would have only 13 or 14 at the time.

I wrote about the shortness of life in Bretts Philosophy –  to quote my friend again – that “In Hundred Years We’ll all be Dead and Be Lucky if Anyone Remembers Our Name.”

Whilst there may be very little chance of anyone in the future remembering our name; the opportunity remains – for the events of our lives to become the gold dust on which others may mine to enrich their own. The opportunity to become part of the shoulder which upon others stand. As we live, we touch thousands of lives. We have the opportunity in those moments to plant seeds of riches that could be mined for years to come.

I am often amazed by how a kind word or a card sent can be recalled and remembered by a person for years to come. Long after the event has left my conscious memory, I guess its because sadly there are often few kind deeds that people experience and make a lasting impression.

Let us seek to live wisely, with virtue and courage. Let our lives ashes be gold, not compost; But gold that can kick start a life forward to a wealthy, more prosperous existence.

“Who knows only his own generation remains always a child

– George Norlin (1871-1942)


On the Shortness of LifeSeneca

Meditations – Marcus Aurelius – Gregory Hays’s translation

BookCrossings – change the world one book at a time.

Butterfly Coins – a new way to pay it forward, track the effect of kindness.


Written By Owen Thomas


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