Kathmandu: Pashupatinath

Kathmandu We are all gathered at my mom’s bedside in the hospice, chatting jovially, when Jane gets my attention and says “I think you’re mom has left us.”

My grandfather is a mortician and his house is also the village morgue and funeral home. My dad tells stories about growing up in that house like going to the bathroom in the night and finding a dead body in the bathtub because the morgue was beyond capacity. On this day we are visiting in the funeral home ignoring the open casket where the remains of Whistling Archie lie waiting for the funeral later that day. My young brother has been searching the house for us when he wanders in. He is initially pleased to finally find us but then shocked to see the dead body. He is frozen for a moment then runs from the room screaming.

I have an accoustic guitar that I have painstakingly painted with many totems of personal significance. Without a trace of anger or defiance but rather reverence I take the guitar into the backyard, douse it with lighter fluid, and set it aflame. I am left with a guitar of ashes, each metal fret perfectly positioned.

Smoke from the cremated bodies drifts up over Pashupatinath. Loved ones brush the remaining ashes into the river. I ask if it would be okay to take a photograph. He looks about us uneasily and then says “One. Only one.”