Tag Archives: ashes

Journey–Part 2

24 Feb

On Wednesday I started chronicling my recent trip to South Africa. I intended to put everything in one post, but as it turned out, a lot of activity was packed into my ten days there. This is an account of my last few days.

2012-02-15 14.27.52Wednesday: I have been looking forward to this day ever since I arrived. My friend Jenny picks me up and we spend the day together. Why am I so excited about this? Because Jenny and I have been friends since we were ten. We live far away from each other now, but something as paltry as distance isn’t going to change the fact that she is my best friend and always will be. We go out for coffee, then take a walk around the bird park. We watch a live bird show – part of it, anyway, before the rest of it is cancelled due to rain. After that we head indoors and have lunch together. It is a great day, one that concludes with us resolving to have a joint 50th birthday celebration in some exotic location. We have a few years to nail down the details.

Thursday: Mom and I head out early to do the shopping we were going to do on Tuesday. We buy presents for my boys and food for the memorial that is planned for tomorrow. Then Mom drops me off at a shopping mall, where I have arranged to meet up with my friends Faye and Njabulo. I used to work with Faye and I was in Toastmasters with both of them. We spend hours drinking coffee and talking. Eventually we go our own reluctant ways. I do a bit of shopping before meeting up with my cousin Philippa, who is visiting for a few days from the coastal town of Knysna that is now home to her. We have coffee, do more shopping, and then head home to have dinner with Mom.

2012-02-17 15.11.45Friday: My brother arrives at a prearranged time, and the three of us drive out to my aunt’s house. We have a small private memorial planned – just a few us of us, all family. With my brother protectively carrying the ashes, we go up the hill behind her house. My brother says a few words that bring smiles and tears to the rest of us, and then we scatter the ashes under a tree – the same tree where both of my grandparents were scattered many years ago. My aunt’s final resting place is absolutely gorgeous, and the rain has held off for this occasion. We go back to the house and share memories. This is just the kind of final farewell that my aunt would have wanted.

Saturday: My friend Caroline picks me up and we go out for brunch. I haven’t seen Caroline for about twelve years and she looks just the same. We have a great time catching up, and then she comes back to the house to have tea with me and Mom. After she leaves, Mom and I go out for lunch with my brother. It will be a long time before I see him again, so I am glad of this opportunity. When Mom and I get back to the house, my aunt and cousins come for tea. I finish my packing, and then Mom and I tearfully say goodbye to each other before my cousins drop me off at the train that will take me to the airport.

I returned to Toronto on Sunday afternoon, feeling jetlagged, exhausted, and filled with the sadness that comes from leaving behind a grieving mother. I wish I could split myself in half. I am so happy to be back here, with my husband and children. But I wish I could have spent more time with Mom. I feel like she still needs me, and I hope she knows that even though I am far away, I am always at her side.

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Seeing Her For The Last Time

10 Feb

Today I saw my aunt Ann for the first time in seven years. Last time I saw her, she cooked lunch at her house. She was always a bit of a marvel in the kitchen, and the meal was delicious. We ate good food, drank good wine, and shared tears and laughter as we reminisced about my Dad, whose funeral had been held two days previously.

Today, I stood in a funeral home looking down at Ann, lying in her casket. She looked bruised and swollen, and the injuries from the accident that took her life were very much in evidence. It was hard, so hard, to see her.

After we left the funeral home, we went to Ann’s house to have tea and cake, and to talk and find comfort in being together – me, my Mom, my aunt Mary (the wife of my late Uncle Philip who was Ann and my Mom’s brother) and two of my cousins. It was strange to be in Ann’s home without Ann.

I am still not sure what it will be like, trying to adjust to a world without Ann in it. I am not sure what thoughts will be going through my mind next week when we all gather to scatter Ann’s ashes.

The only thing I am sure of is this: even though Ann’s body looks bruised and broken, she will always be beautiful to me.

May she rest in peace.

Ashes And Roses

6 Feb

It is with a bittersweet feeling that I pay tribute to both of my parents on the anniversary of their marriage. The sweet part of the equation stems from the fact that my parents had a fantastic marriage. They had a deep, profound love for one another and apart from the occasional spat, they treated each other with the utmost respect. I could not have asked for better role models to show me just what a loving, solid marriage should look like.

The bitterness, of course, is because Dad is no longer with us. Today, Mom is in Cape Town without her beloved husband by her side, gazing longingly into the sea in which she placed his ashes six years ago today, on what would have been their 40th wedding anniversary.

As I reflect on this day, I cannot help but contemplate my own relationship with Gerard, now almost a decade old, and our own upcoming wedding. For all intents and purposes, we are already married. We have been living together for a long time, we have created new human beings, and our union is legally recognized as a spousal relationship. But still, getting married will, I believe, add a new kind of depth to our relationship. We see it as the chance of a new beginning, a new and wonderful chapter in our lives.

People ask why we waited for long to get married; why, indeed, we are bothering to get married at all. The answer, quite simply, is that we have arrived at a point in our life together where we feel that we can get married. You see, Gerard and I have been through a lot. We have survived a great deal: the loss of both of our fathers, my post-partum depression following the birth of James, George’s autism diagnosis, near-bankruptcy, to name but a few. Our relationship has been placed under unbelievable strain; it has reached the breaking point.

But when it reached the breaking point, it didn’t break. Somehow we saw our way through all of the dark times. We found a way to stick together, to emerge from that terrible bleakness and desolation as a pair, as an integrated whole. We know what we are capable of surviving. Neither of us could imagine life without the other one. We feel that we have earned the privilege of being married to each other.

I cannot wait. I am really, really excited when I think about the day I will exchange wedding vows with my beloved, in front of friends and family. It will be an amazing feeling, walking down the aisle on the arm of my brother, and then looking into Gerard’s eyes as I declare my eternal love for him. Mom will likely shed some tears, but there will be happy tears mixed in with the sad.

It makes me sad, knowing that I will not get a father-daughter dance with Dad. But I know he will be there, hopefully nodding with approval and glowing with pride.

February 6th, 2005

Dad has been gone for exactly two months. It is almost sunset.

Mom tentatively carries the urn holding his ashes to the edge of the rocks, with her sister standing a respectful distance behind. Clutching Dad to her heart one last time, she whispers her goodbyes to the wind, and hands the urn to the man standing beside her, the man who is surefooted enough to brave the rocks.

Mom stands beside her sister, and watches as the ashes of her beloved are gently transferred from the urn to the sea, from whence they will travel to who knows where? Many, many rose petals are placed into the sea to travel with the ashes.

Mom watches in silence as the ashes and the rose petals float out into the ocean. The tide is low, the rose petals waft lazily as they escort Dad into the beginning of his eternal travels. Together, the roses and the ashes reach the horizon. With the sun directly behind them, the ocean current moves them around in a small circle, as if they are waving goodbye to the widow standing on the rocks.

Ashes and roses disappear from sight, just as the sun dips below the horizon and closes the chapter on the day.