the release
a grief lyric for lumumba

we made our way toward the waterfall, abbie and me, our phones lighting the way down slick, stone stairs. i carried the ornate box with your cremains. abbie held the screwdriver. i’d have to unscrew the bottom, the only access to the plastic bag you were in.

in the frigid november air we kept our heads down, the circles of our phone lights no match for the inky dark. we trudged beside a crowd of chattering moonbow seekers, none of which were likely to say goodbye to their child that night.

the bustling throng in the upper observatory obscured our view. all we could see before us was wet, rock wall. i couldn’t let you go in that crowd, so we changed course, toward the lower observatory where few had gone. 

to keep from falling, our gazes never strayed from the slippery, stony steps. when we’d gone down as far as it were possible to go, a thin metal rail stood before us. when we lifted our eyes we saw was magic.

there she was, cumberland falls, that grand lady, dressed resplendently in a gown of falling water. at the sight of her i drew in my breath, stunned by the wonder. it felt as if my heart would beat out of my chest.

as magical as that, above the lady’s cascade, a perfect arch of glowing white, like a halo, lit the lofty night. the moonbow i feared i wouldn’t see, like a welcoming smile greeted me.

though i’d never seen her, this waterfall knew who i was and what i’d come to do, and all at once i knew her, too. if nature ever equaled divine love, mama god in nature had come, and asked for you, my son. 

my fear of your ashes vanished. abbie gave me the screwdriver, and turned her iphone flashlight toward me, so could see to for what i’d come to do. mama waited patiently while i loosened the screw, my fingers, numb from the cold. it was hard, but you do what you gotta do.

in one swift motion i pulled the plastic bag out, and set the box on the wet ground. i held your ashes to my heart, letting myself feel the weight, and how they shifted in the bag like sand. everything around me faded: abbie, the rest of the crowd, until there was nothing left but you, and me, a waterfall, and a moonbow. i held you for a long time, cradling you, as my tears mingled with a soft spray of water. 

i undid the twist tie, and heard the clank of the metal tag attached hit the ground. with every bit of tenderness in me i opened the bag. i dropped my head. it was time to say my last goodbye before i released you. now i lifted my head, mama waterfall, in her white gown, stretched her arms toward me, saying “mama, it’s time.” 

i took a deep breath, leaned over the rail, and poured what remained of you between her stone feet and luminous skirt.

“goodbye, son. i love you so much. you belong to god and the ancestors now.” and to mama waterfall.

“thank you, thank you, thank you,”  i whispered into the night, for letting me be lumumba ayinde ade bandele’s mama, and for mothering me tonight.

i took a deep and healing breath, knowing you are one with nature now, and i will find you in the breath of the wind, the blue of the sky, and in the slanted, silver rain, and every time i visit mama waterfall, in her fine mist i’ll feel you touch my face, making my heart a waterfall.

my heart is a waterfall, flowing deep and wide, and wild.