They sat on my dining room table for months; tucked inside cardboard boxes, Mama and Eric’s ashes filled two plastic bags, secured by silver medallions etched with numbers.
Toiling through my grief, I struggled to accept the concept that their lives lay there in boxes. If ashes were all that remained of their existences, I selfishly wanted to keep them close to me; bound by a vow to my mother, I ultimately came to terms with spreading her ashes near the ocean. Consequently, it was only natural to spread Eric’s along with hers.
Spring blossomed while Felicia and I selected a memorable location to part with them. As Mother’s Day approached, it seemed a fitting gift in symbol to our mother’s memory, to spread their ashes on that particular day, alongside a local lighthouse. On a borrowed boat, chartered by a friend, my two sons joined us in our voyage to Mama and Eric’s final resting place.
The sun beamed bright from an unblemished sky, illuminating everything the eye could see in rich tones of blues, greens and browns, its warming embrace kissing our skins. As our bow crashed through each wave, chopped into the waters by the whipping winds, I reflected on the similarly tumultuous events of my life. Like the boat miraculously plowing its way to a charted destination, I too, undoubtedly, was created to withstand waves of tragedy and strife, to stay afloat and reach a plotted journey’s end.
“But where is that end” I wondered.
Nearing the lighthouse, a small vessel, tied to its dock, with poles cast, stole my attention, engulfing me in a sensation of emptiness. Its occupants sat aboard busily baiting hooks and casting into every direction, retrieving nothing but empty lines, and I saw myself in them. Angling for the right job, career, hobby, man, relationship, I too was coming up empty handed. There was no joy, no true satisfaction or contentment to speak of in my life. Like my mother, I cut myself off emotionally. Like my step-father, I resorted to drinking to hide from myself and everyone around me. Like my brother and father, I surrendered to the insanity of voices in my head. Unknowingly, I had become the essence of qualities I despised and feared. Rapt by this new self-awareness, I immersed into a moment of pure consciousness, bathing in absolute, unadulterated peace.
“There’s more to life than this” I thought looking down at the box of ashes in my hand, “there has to be.”
Anchored off shore, parallel to the lighthouse, Felicia and I each gathered a bag of ashes and took a stand on opposite sides of the boat, without a word spoken. It didn’t seem that any words could adequately express the emotions felt. We were there together, just as we were when Mama took her last breath, just as we were when Eric took his, forever sealing our bond of sisterhood. Glancing at each other in unison, we turned to pour their ashes into the sea, into the winds.
As the remnants of Mama and Eric were swept up into the sky out of sight and swirled into the current beyond our reach, I gasped what felt like my very first breath of being itself. The triumphant roaring wind cradled me as waves gently rocked the boat from side to side, tuning my senses into an existence superior to that of which I’d been confined. Their lives, in every mortal sense of the word, were obliterated to ashes, swept away by wind; yet, their voices whistled in the winds as their aromas saturated the ocean air. Savoring their salt upon my lips, I beheld their faces in the eyes of my sons and my sister. Caressing me in rays of sunlight, they let me know they would always be near.