Of all the memorable and hallucinatory scenes in the movie The Big Lebowski, one always comes to mind. Walter (John Goodman) and the Dude (Jeff Bridges) stand on an ocean side cliff to spread the ashes of their deceased friend Donny. As Walter gives his eulogy, oblivious to the wind whipping through the Dude’s blonde, surfer locks, you can see the punchline for the visual joke coming from a mile away. The absurdity of the scene is underscored by Bridge’s blank expression as the human ashes whirl about, crusting over his beard and sunglasses.
It’s an iconic and hilarious scene, and I couldn’t help but think it about when I recently took part in an ashes spreading ceremony for my dear friend Jack Tuller. After initially surviving brain cancer over twenty-six years ago, he succumbed to a recurrence, and died at fifty-eight.
The event took place November 2 on a warm and bright day in Sutro Heights Park, San Francisco, overlooking the Great Highway and Ocean Beach. Jack chose the spot not only because of special significance but, elevated on a bluff and surrounded by trees, it was protected from the wind. And that was important to Jack. The wind at Ocean Beach is always relentlessly gusty. I cracked up when his wife, Jen, shared Jack’s reaction when he landed on the location for his final resting place. “Look Jen, there’s no wind!”
And that was the thing about Jack. One of the qualities I cherished about him was his interest and championing of others. Even at his most debilitated, he’d ask me “How ya’ doing?” “What’s going on? “Tell me everything!” That consistent connection enabled him to maintain deep friendships with a large circle of people–relationships that spanned decades.
At the ceremony, we were given a bottle of Jack’s ashes. They resembled grainy sand. I spread a few and kept a few, smiling at the memories of a departed friend, who even in death, wanted to make sure we didn’t have our own Big Lebowski moment.
To read more about Jack Tuller and his spirited life and loves, check out his obituary at weremember.