When my brother, sister and I buried our parents in a cemetery on May 1, I knew it was just the beginning of saying goodbye.
My Father was 64 years old when he died in 1995 and my Mother kept his cremated remains on her dresser. She was comforted having him close by and resisted every effort my brother made to encourage her to find a burial plot and lay Dad to rest. It was what my brother needed her to do, but what she needed was what mattered.
She died last October a few weeks before her 89th birthday. It took some time to decide where they would be buried. We were smack in the middle of the Covid pandemic and we felt they deserved at least a small ceremony with family and a handful of friends.
So – “Hooray Hooray, the first of May” – was the date we chose. That was the formal burial. A blue urn with their combined remains went in to ground. A headstone was installed a few weeks later.
Mum asked that we hold aside some of their combined remains and scatter them. She mentioned three places she wanted us to go: the family farm in Nobleboro, Maine; off the back of a Friendship Sloop in an ocean locale of our choosing; and to a tidal river in Cushing, Maine, where her sister remains were scattered many years ago. My brother and sister left it to me to managed the ocean and river requests.
Breast Cancer robbed my Aunt Natalie of her life in 1985. She was much too young, only 58. She left before she had a chance to see the remarkable and compassionate people her daughter Melissa and son Peter would become, meet the man and women her children would marry, and meet her grandson, Kyle.
Her husband George, Melissa and Peter took her remains to the river in Cushing. Then, 10 years later, to the day that Nat died, my sweet uncle George passed away at age 69. Melissa and Peter took him to the same place on the river.
Melissa came back the river with me yesterday. It was fitting that she was there, in the place where she let her mother go with the tide. She was with me at hospice when my Mum left to be with my Dad. If you believe such things, he was there with us too, and took her by the hand to be with him, with her sister, her parents, her pup Freddie, her granddaughter Penney Jean, and others that fed her soul in her earthly years.
As it was on the first of May, yesterday (June 23) was a beautiful day. The earth was blanketed with the green of leaves and grass for as far as we could see, and the water in the river sparkled and offered a gentle welcome. A seal and a blue heron checked in. Or, were they my Mum and Dad, watching to be sure I’d do this the right way? Is there a right way to do this?
I opened the black glass jar and poured my parents into the river. Slowly, a little at a time. Melissa tossed petals from a bouquet of flowers into the water. It was peaceful and oddly healing.
To my knowledge Dad had nothing to say about his final resting place. Maybe he and Mum talked about it as his health declined. She never mentioned his wishes to me.
Yesterday we gave her the first of her three requests, to be in the river with her sister. Next month I will fill her second, and take them to the ocean off the back of a Friendship Sloop. When he is ready, my brother will fill the third and take them to the family farm.
Each step in its own time. There is no need to hurry or rush these processes. We have the gift of time now, to hold on a little longer, to let them go when we are ready.
While we were not ready to have them leave us, they were ready to be with each other again. It was not for us to keep them apart. Now they will never be apart again.