I can still hear death rattling your cage.
Like a midwife willing chaos into order, I stood to face the storm.

Was this how you felt before my first breath?
Had to be.

When darkness brought its weight to bear, I threw it on my back.
Yours needed rest—and wings—so I mustered the strength to lighten your load.
I never wanted anything as acutely as I wished Heaven for you then.
Cancer, I decided, could go to hell.
Besides, I swear I heard Jesus tell you to meet him at the barn.

Your ashes arrived on Austin’s doorstep 12 days later.
“This receptacle contains the remains of Gregory Carstens.”
Please. You and I both know that’s bullshit.
I watched you leave.
Jesus bought your stubborn self and led you to water, harness gleaming.

What remains of Greg Carstens cannot be shipped via certified mail.
Dust and bone do not a legacy make.

The remains of Greg Carstens are brave, lanky, and salt-of-the-earth strong.

They’re buoyed by hard work, sunsets, and the occasional inappropriate joke.

Their freezers are full of Peanut M&M’s and vanilla ice cream, and if anyone gets within 50 feet of them smelling like Polo Sport, they’ll scan the horizon for your truck.

Some of them are sentimental. All of them have your look in their eyes.

And when Monday Night Football starts, you know somebody already ordered pizza.

What remains of Greg Carstens?
Dad, we know that’s up to us.
You remain in what we try and how we love and who we become.
Wherever we go from here, we bring your grit, your grin, and a wheelbarrow for good measure.

You gave us life, and we’re going to keep living it.
Full of faith and filled with joy, just like we promised.

Until then, yes, I’ll give the kids a pinch on the butt for you. And, yeah, yeah, I’ll tell them Albert did it.

Try to behave yourself.
And don’t ever do that to me again.