First the kettle must come to a rolling boil. One or two bubbles won't do. Add a small amount, no more than a three-second pour, to Grandma's tarnished silver pot. Swirl the water so that it rises halfway. Inhale the steam. Discard.
Be quick about it. Don't think about her face as you said goodbye. Rheumy eyes and sallow skin. The scent of medicine and mint lozenge. Perfumed rot.
Use what is at hand.
Take a metal tea ball, an unbleached sachet, or an envelope, if all else fails. Get it over quickly. The words 'forgotten' and 'death' are hovering on every side.
Tap the ashes into the container. The small burnt bits of bone. Don't spill. Don't inhale or twitch your nose. Most importantly, don't think.
Other ingredients are necessary. Try to remember: the pinch of cayenne in Grandma's lamb stew, the bottle of spice Dad added, once only, to her bland Midwestern chili.
Get it wrong. Have utter conviction about every mistake. Rewrite her recipe in your head: wilted nettles, mildewed legs of a Barbie doll, the hollow bones of a robin found under Grandma's tallest maple tree.
The last ingredient is always the hardest, like honey-sweetened spit held in for far too long. Tears, she said, are so simple and yet so often the key.
Bow your head and try.
Never forget the cherub is watching from atop the teapot lid, silvered conch shell halfway to his lips, though he is never quite willing to make the call—come back.
Remember this wasn't your choice as you pour the murky liquid into the special china cup. Remember, but don't think as the heat slides down your throat. Her ashes, too.
You are the good child. The listener. You are the child who drinks down her own grief.
You are the tea-maker. The one who promised to hear the voices even after she was dead.
BIO:Julie C. Day graduated from the Stonecoast M.F.A. program. By day she writes IT documents as well as documents of the more clearly fictional variety. Some of her favorite things include gummy candies, loose teas and standing desks. You can find Julie online at http://www.stillwingingit.com and @thisjulieday.