It’s been a rough week, but Monday my sisters called to say our Mother’s ashes had finally become available and they were on their way to retrieve them. Apparently, even in death, So Cal keeps people waiting in line. I thought it would be a bit difficult to explain that I needed to leave work early so that I could join my sisters in a “Dairy Queen Drive Thru” but apparently nothing I say frightens my co-workers any longer. Mother’s urn was seat belted in the back beside me as we ordered our cones and toasted her in a “High Five Ice Cream salute”. (Our Mother was an avid fan).
Last evening we set sail to scatter her ashes. The location was our Father’s “Halibut Hot Spot” where he won 3 Halibut Derby’s and where we spread his own ashes 4 years back. I did worry about divulging the exact coordinates to the sea captain… but he was a great guy… and I think our secret is safe. Me, being me…I can’t let things just “be”. I have to orchestrate everything into some sort of organized event…and even though my Father’s “service script” was less than perfect (horrendously funny in fact) due to a storm brewing on the Pacific…I did make another effort for my Mother’s sake …and her memory. My Family indulges my need to do this kind of thing. Each of us has “something”. This habit is all mine.
Our boat was a 48 foot Aquila fishing vessel leaving Huntington Harbor Yacht Club. Heck…I’ve lived in Huntington for 20 years and never even knew we had one! We carted our paraphernalia onto the waiting craft and left the dock at precisely 6:30 pm. We had previously sent candles for people to light in a moment of reflection and remembrance. (That’s our kind of service). Leaving the Harbor, I had recorded Scottish Bagpipes such as “Amazing Grace” and “Danny Boy”. I found the recording “allot less drama” than when I hired the actual Bag Piper for my Father’s service. He seemed to have a previously undivulge “problem” with motion sickness…which ultimately became a “problem” for the previous sea captain.
We traveled through the harbor very dignified, pipes blaring, wind whipping through our hair. There was an emotional moment when we noticed 2 birds following us, very determined to keep up. We don’t cry gracefully like in the movies…more of a choked, red-faced, gasping of air…(much like a fish out of water) but we made it through. We are Krishers after all.
When we arrived at the area, the captain turned the boat toward the secret spot and lowered his anchor. My oldest sister (Cindy) gets embarrassed easily… but she was a good sport when I told her she was now “the Matriarch” and, with that title, she was expected to be the first to speak. I had given her some old sea verse previously (reading is easier) and when she spoke, I felt her power and was enormously proud. My middle sister (Julie) was next (I had previously mentioned to go in ceremonial birth order) (again, can’t help this habit) and she spoke from the heart through tears that made her children cry…which in turn made her Sisters cry. The captain stayed composed thank God. I went next with a prayer and then 3 of my sisters’ children spoke about their Grandmother.
What came next needs a little explanation. My dear Mother (born Protestant Christian) was fascinated by the Catholic religion. She made me watch “all things Fatima” while growing up. I’ve probably seen “The Song of Bernadette” 400 times which makes me want to shout “I can’t make you happy in this world…only in the next“. She collected those sealed rose petal things that they send out to people on mailing lists. She must have had 40 lying here and there. Years ago when I visited Notre Dame, I even brought back a blessed Rosary for her to hold on to. So naturally, when the time came for Julie to spread the ashes, I tuned the iPod to the most wonderful version of Ave Maria I’ve ever heard (by the very talented Josh Groban). If you haven’t heard it…let me just say…it could bring Satan himself down to his knees…something I’d very much like to see.
Upon release, the ashes hit the wind and gently sailed though the air, falling slowly into the waiting ocean . Cindy followed this by dropping a beautiful heart-shaped wreath that my niece Nicole had made from gatherings in my Mother’s garden. I followed that by scattering handfuls of white rose petals. I must silently thank a neighbor (whom had no idea of their contribution and never will) because I actually stole them in the middle of the previous night, after having forgot to pick some up at the local florist. I was standing in the shower late Monday night, trying to remember all the things that needed to be done, when white petals popped into my head. I jumped out quickly and retrieved my robe. Armed with cutting shears, I marched around the block until I spied some whites roses growing. I am grateful that nothing embarrassing (like a car) happened by while I stealthily hacked away. I did my best not to leave large, noticable bald spots.
Once the 3 sisters had done their best to celebrate their Mother’s life…we stood and watch that beautiful wreath…surrounded by white floating petals…roll wave after wave through an ocean lit by the golden setting sun. I blame the tears on Ave Maria…but it really was a beautiful, peaceful sight…a fitting end to a beautiful woman’s life.
Ceremony completed, big band Benny Goodman brought us back into a lighter mood. During the next hour I witnessed my sister fall on her bum (she was ok), my niece argue with the sea captain about the merits of the Beatles versus any other lesser band and the captain’s shipmate break out his fishing gear. I felt warmed knowing the world was being set right and that life goes on…even after great loss. I felt my Mother and Father’s presence and I know that they were smiling down on us.