Setting of the sweet sun

Richard Lutz bids farewell to a friend.


The family of H slowly walked from the harbour to a quiet beach unseen from the busy quayside. She died from Covid-19 and it was time for her husband, her children, her grandsons to spread her ashes.

At first, it was thought best to consign her to the ocean from that monolithic harbour wall that stretches like a broken finger out to sea.  It seemed right.

But the quiet beach, with a rocky crescent shielding it from the tides and the weather, was a better choice. It was late evening and in Strathcarrick, on the west coast of Scotland, the sweet sun sets late, as late as 11pm during the long days.

Her family brought H’s remains over a sandy strip to a point where the low tide was starting to turn. Her young grandsons leapt from rock to rock with an orange sunset framing their leaping profiles. The sun burned over the Arran mountains 15 miles west across the estuary.

The family gathered together, the ashes were slowly swept into the lapping waters. Away on the waves, a fleet of swans, close to three dozen, effortlessly, unnervingly silent, glided away. H’s family watched her remains blend with the endless ocean. Her ashes met the waves of the living sea.

She will be as much of this planet as her husband and children are, as her three grandsons are as they jump from rock to rock with the sun falling behind the mountains and the sky turning a deep purple with shards of red and orange. She is a part of the moving oceans as we are part of the earth. “It’s hard to think of eternity,” a family member said as the sky darkened. “I just can’t understand it.”

Back at the harbour, the sunset-watchers drifted away and the moored boats clinked with an evening breeze. An old boy with his wee dog smoked a last cigarette and couples gathered around a picnic table for a final gossip. Then the night rolled in.

Picture credit: Rachel Shepherd