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Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Last Ritual

It's been almost exactly 10 months since my mom died and we knew that on this trip out to California we would find the time to scatter her ashes where she wanted them left.  The night before we were planning this outing I didn't sleep well and woke up quite melancholy. It definitely made her death very real to me all over again and the finality of the act was weighing heavily on my heart.  And I have never handled human ashes before so I just wasn't at all sure what this whole thing would be like.  But Doug, my dad, my cousin, Mike, (my mom's oldest brother's oldest son, who she was very close to), his wife Susan and I knew that this was something we needed to do and wanted to do. So at dusk on Wednesday, the 19th of February we headed out to her favorite golf hole, #12 at Mission Lakes to begin our journey.  
Mom loved this golf course and she always wanted her passing to be somehow marked on this spot. Mike and his brothers, Steve and Kelly, had donated a tree to be planted near the hole and we felt that we should start there. 
From there we headed up the hill to the women's tee.  We then proceeded to each take a tee shot in honor of mom.
I chose a pink golf ball,
pink being a major symbol of the fight against breast cancer and while mom's was ovarian, the symbol of fighting cancer was important to me.
Unfortunately I totally shanked it so had to hit another one!  It was a wonderful gesture of solidarity for us all and we all enjoyed hitting the ball into the now near dark landscape.  It was impossible to see where the balls went so we just left them.  It seemed a fitting tribute in the midst of our ceremony.
Finally, as the daylight faded, we gathered in a circle and each one shared a loving remark of something that is deeply imprinted on their heart regarding who my mom was in their life.  A sense of humor, feeling truly and deeply loved by mom, being made to feel like you were the most special person on earth were sentiments that were deeply expressed through veils of tears.  As we stood on that hillside in the dim light, the sprinklers came on! We didn't mind. Our faces were already wet with tears. Doug shared some beautiful words taken from our tradition when we have a committal or an interment that expresses from God we have come, to God we will go and gave assurances that mom was now rejoicing in her heavenly home, no longer trapped by her earthly body, which was now the ash that we each carried in a small bag in preparation for the sprinkling that would soon ensue.  I then prayed knowing that mom would've wanted that.  It was a sacred and holy moment, laced with tears and emotions but also joy and peace.
From that spot we moved onto the place where she wanted her ashes left.  We each took our time
meandering through the desert landscape, each scattering her ashes as we wandered. It was not as awkward as I had expected, handling the ash.  It was actually a bit cathartic and made me feel at peace that we had honored her wishes and we will always know that her spirit and presence remains in this place where all of us gathered have a special connection.  We re-gathered at the newly planted tree where I emptied my bag of ash at its foot and saved a little more for the tree that is planted in our backyard...
a gift from my book club that they presented to me last spring and which we planted on this trip as well.
Trees give life and beauty, shade and rest, fruit and fragrance: all qualities that reflect my mother's character as well.
It was hard but beautiful.  A fitting end to this difficult journey.  A true blessing to honor her wishes.
We ended the evening with margaritas and the best Mexican food in town!  We shared stories and remembered my mother with such joy and affection.  I miss her, but I'm happy to know that reminders remain here in the desert, through the Mexican palm tree in our backyard and the beautiful tree sitting by the #12 green, and of course through her ashes now spread across this mesmerizing and beautiful desert landscape that we all love so very much.
Peace to your memory mom.  How we loved you and how we miss you.
You have given us much joy and our memories will continue to do so as well.   Amen.