Sunday, July 8, 2007

An Evening of Grief, Then Comic Relief

As mentioned in my previous post, I just returned from vacation with my family. The main purpose of this trip was to fulfill our late mother's wish to have a portion of her ashes spread over South Padre Island. This was the only wish that Mom was ever specific about, so it has been exceedingly important to us to make sure that it was fulfilled.

On Friday, June 29th, right at dusk, we walked down to the beach to return our mother to a place that she loved so very, very much - a place that, for years, brought much peace, relaxation, and joy to her very hectic life. I'll say here that I and my entire family believe in eternal life, and believe that our mother now resides in Heaven. We know that only her physical remains are in those ashes. However, as we have discovered many times since her death, these types of rituals and ceremonies done in our mother's memory bring us much peace, and we feel certain that they are gestures that would make Mom really happy.

The night was mercifully cool and breezy. All 14 of us walked together along the beach to the Sunchase Condominiums, the resort at which we had always stayed as a family in the 80's and 90's. Every corner of that property holds a precious memory for all of us, so to have our ceremony on Sunchase's beach felt totally perfect. When we arrived, the sun had just set and the moon had risen above the ocean, its light illuminating the dark water. It was absolutely gorgeous.

We had decided to spread her ashes right on the shoreline. Mom liked to occasionally go out into the waves, but more than anything, she loved to just sit in the sunshine along the shoreline, letting the water gently lap up against her. From this vantage, she was able to keep watch over all of us as we ran around, built sand castles, and rode the waves. These times were pure bliss for her.

We first joined hands in a circle, and I led the family in prayer, thanking God for the gift of this extraordinary woman. I further prayed that God would give us the strength to continue to live out Mom's legacy of love, kindness, and selflessness. Following the prayer, my siblings and I took turns, each of us pouring a portion of the ashes into the wind, which gently carried them into the ocean. It was sad, but it was perfect. And best of all, it was exactly what Mom wanted. Following the ceremony, we stood around for a while, many of us crying or simply standing in silence.

And then it happened.

We had noticed when we first came down to the beach that there were some mosquitos, but they were really nothing more than a minor nuisance at that point. But by the time we had finished our ceremony, the mosquitos began to attack us in full force. And ya'll, they were huge. I mean HUGE. They looked like tarantulas. And they were downright Hitchcockian in quantity. You would look down, and there would be ten of them on your arm and twelve of them on your leg. We had to make a run for it.

The mothers with little ones took off first, followed quickly by the rest of us. We were basically having to haul tail back to the hotel, sprinting in all different directions to escape the onslaught of these blood-sucking insects. My uber-athlete sister Julie even began running serpentine and screaming at the top of her lungs, "BOB AND WEAVE! BOB AND WEAVE!"

We couldn't help but crack up. I was absolutely HOWLING. What had happened to our peaceful evening? Mere moments ago we were having this beautiful and reverent ceremony in memory of one of the lovliest creatures who ever walked this earth! Now, suddenly, we were scattered about the beach like maniacs, trying to escape the most vile creatures we'd ever seen.

By the time we reached the hotel, we were exhausted and bewildered. On the one hand, we were a little frustrated that our time on the beach had been cut short. But then we thought, well, Mom would not have wanted us to stand out there crying all night. Indeed, the last thing she would have wanted was for things to get too maudlin. "Honestly, quit fussing over me," she would have said, "You've fulfilled my wishes, now go have fun together!"

And that we did. We returned to our hotel room, hung out together, laughed together, counted our mosquito bites, and of course, passed around the Campho-Phenique.

Never a dull moment.



Sheila said...

It was touching to read about y'all reminiscing about your mom and fulfulling her wishes, but what really touched me was hearing about campho-pheneque. Does that still exist? Growing up, I knew that no matter what ailed me: mosquito bites, scrapes, broken would be alright as soon a Mom got out the campho-pheneque. It heals everything! Your previous blog asked for us to say list things we love in life. Well, just knowing that campho-pheneque still exists lets me sleep peacefully at night.

Christine said...

I loved reading this posting. Well I love reading all your postings, but this one was especially great b/c I had the pleasure of knowing your mom. I know she was laughing, probably howling, in heaven with the escape from the mosquitoes situation!

Thank you for keeping a blog!! It's such a fun diversion and you are such a great writer.