Florida goodbye. Mom’s birthday.

My mom’s birthday is today. I think about her a lot. Her birthday is kind of sad for me, though I don’t know why. And the anniversary of her death this year kind of hit me hard.

I wanted to write a post about how much I missed her and how much she meant to me. But I just can’t seem to make it come out. It’s kind of stuck in me – or maybe I just feel like I have to hold on to it.

I wrote this after our trip to scatter her ashes last year and I think it’s time to publish it.

I miss you Mom. In more ways than I can say. And I think about you so much. We love you.

 summer also

Written June 2013 after our trip to Florida:

We just got back from an amazing vacation. It was truly the most amazing vacation I can imagine. My whole family (dad, brothers, their families, my family) all went to Florida together. We also met up with my Uncle Craig and his family there for part of it. I don’t want to forget this experience and so I want to write it down. I feel like there are three parts to our story, and so I will break it into three parts.

The first part is actually the last part in a timeline, but it is the part I want to remember the most, so I am starting with that.

My mom was born and grew up in Florida.She loved the beaches and ocean. I think she always missed it. When we went back there with her twice it felt like she truly felt at home there on the beach. In her video saying goodbye to us she told us that she had had a tough childhood, but that she always had the beach. She could go to the beach and feel at home and at peace.

When she died last summer she left instructions for us to return her to the beach. She wanted to rest on the seashore. We had her cremated and waited for a time that we could all get together. We said goodbye to her almost a year ago, but we didn’t ever finish the farewell until now. Her instructions to my dad were to take some money she had set aside from cashing out some of her retirement accounts and take all of her kids (she had so many more kids than she gave birth to – all of our spouses, all of our children…) on a lovely vacation to a beach somewhere. Anywhere as long as it was a beach. She wanted us to spend good time together and she wanted us to say leave her to rest on the seashore.

And so we did.

We had waited until our second to the last night to head down to a beautiful part of the beach. We stayed in a lovely beach house in Pensacola Beach, Florida. One night we all got dressed up a little and went to a beautiful and special place on the beach.

I have to hand it to my Uncle Craig. I hadn’t ever heard Mom talk about Pensacola Beach. I had heard about Fort Walton and Daytona and Cocoa beach. She talked about living in all of those places and we visited them when we went as kids and young adults. But I hadn’t heard of Pensacola from her. I was a little wary of the location because of that. It was lovely and all, but I just wasn’t sure.

My uncle showed us the beaches that are part of the “Gulf Islands National Seashore” – and it was so beautiful. Gorgeous sand dunes which my mother loved. Gorgeous shore. Green blue water that was so clear looking. Just so beautiful it took our breath away. My Dad wanted to have the actual “service” at sundown, so we got there a few minutes early and my uncle generously took some family pictures for us. We will always be thankful to him for so beautifully capturing the night.

When it was about sundown, we all stood with our backs to the ocean and my brother said a prayer. Then my dad opened the lovely wooden urn my mom’s remains had been waiting in for the last 11 months. My son stepped forward to say he wanted to help and dad asked if we all wanted to scatter some. We all took turns (kids first) taking a handful of ash and sprinkling it up the sand. My uncle spread his hand full in the water. So she is resting in the places she loves the most – the sand and ocean. I am sure that the ashes will dispense all over the area. She would have loved it there.

Then we walked up and down the beach a bit, the kids and some of the dads got wet. We had a few tears and a few group hugs. It was really a lovely way to say a final goodbye. The most lovely place I can think of and so many of the people my mom loved the most being there for her.

There are a few moments that stuck out to me that I want to just share.

-My nephew as we were pulling into the parking area changing the words of a song to “i miss my grammie so much”.

-My son being so serious and somber and wanting to help sprinkle the ashes.

-All of the kids – spouses included – being touched by our love for her there on the shore.

-The thought that this was a perfect place for her to rest. She would have loved it there.

-The ashes blowing up into my Dad’s face and camera and my dad saying that he thought it was her teasing him one last time.

-A lovely sunset.

-Very little sadness – mostly just great memories.

-My son “saying the amens” that he won’t forget the lovely times he had with his Grammie.

-The color of the ocean – such a lovely green blue.

-The boys and girls making drawings in the sand for grammie. My son in particular made a drawing right in front of the urn while we were getting prepared – with a heart and the word love and a crack down the heart “because it’s heart breaking”, and then after the scattering he drew a sort of headstone. It had the word Grammie, then a bone below it to tell people that her bones were here.

-Seeing a sort of closure in faces.

-Love

I don’t know why we as people need the closure after our loved ones die. I don’t think we are alone – there are several types of animals that care for their dead or stand over them touching them. All cultures seem to have different traditions. Ours tends to say goodbye and then move on, not looking back. I am glad we had this chance to look back, to have one last goodbye. My husband’s culture gets together 7 days after the death, 40 days after, a year after, and even every year on the date of the death in some families. I always thought that was kind of over-doing it. I said “just let them rest in peace.” But now I think I understand. It gives the family and friends time to be with those who remember their loved one. It gives them a way to honor them and share their memory. They don’t just move past the pain and let go. They hold on to the memories and the love and laughter. I have decided it is lovely. Maybe next year I will start a tradition of us toasting her or talking on the anniversary or her birthday.

I have decided that my family was lucky to have this and to have each other there for support too.

This year has been hard for me. I haven’t dealt with everything as well as I would have liked. Maybe this will give me just the push more – to remember the light more than the sadness.

*It did help me remember the light more than the sadness. And it helped me move forward some. So thanks, Dad, for making that happen.

IMGP0400

The kids burying each other in sand at the Florida beach house we stayed at.

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