Richard Ross

For his brother, Tony Ross
Born November 19, 1957
Died July 6, 2009
Cremation ceremony held on July 8, 2009

Coming from a strong Catholic background I wasn’t too keen on the idea of Tony wanting to be cremated, let alone in the open air, on a wood pyre with juniper branches and ponderosa wood, on the side of the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) mountains, at 7 am in the morning, after 3 days of lying in state at his home in Alamosa on dry ice. However I was an older brother and had already learned that Tony did things “his way” and usually things turned out nicer than I would have expected. What a beautiful way to go, on an altar, in the open air, on the side of a mountain, surrounded by about 90 people, who you knew made an extra effort to be there to witness his passing, and knowing he was going to a better place, and feeling their love.

Even the mosquitos came out in full force. I never would have participated in this if it wasn’t for my brother and now I wish that others consider this as another way, the old traditional Indian way, of passing.

The love and care that was shown by the Crestone end-of-life project (CEOLP) people was amazing. Tony died at 8:11 pm on July 6th, 2009 with his brother Eddie and myself at his side. Four end-of-life people drove down from Crestone (about 1 hour away) and arrived about 10:40 pm to wash and dress the body. They invited Eddie and I to partake in the washing and putting on the precious oils of frankincense and myrrh, just like what Jesus received as gifts from the Wise Men. This process was very methodical and ritualistic, always concerned with his care and dignity. They lit candles and carefully packed him in dry ice to keep his body from deteriorating too quickly. Eddie made sure that he or I would be present during the three days he was to lie in state. Other CEOLP members came the next day and brought dry ice and a cooling blanket, gathered junipers for the burning, built the wooden stretcher he would be carried and burned on. And other CEOLP members came Thursday night and Friday morning to help prepare him for the trip to Crestone. In addition there were a few calls from the Howells (Barbara and William) during Tony’s time lying in state. On July 10th the day of the cremation, the CEOLP people were out in full force, preparing the site, tending to the fire, taking pictures, taking care of the paperwork, cleaning up afterwards and putting his ashes in his urn.

The ceremony was very reverent and plenty of time was allowed for the people present to speak as the fire burned. About 20 people spoke and shared how Tony impacted their lives and they shared their love for Tony. Again the overall experience was beautiful. It was a very moving experience that I was glad to be a part of and won’t easily forget. I want to thank the CEOLP for the gracious handling of Tony’s body after his death and during his cremation.

~Richard Ross