It’s been a year since Mom died. In so many ways, it’s been a fast year. My brothers and I have laughed at and cried over the memories. We’ve navigated her estate and started to clean out her house. We divvied up the valuables. There’s one thing we hadn’t done.
Mom was not a flashy person. I should rephrase that. She loved glitter, and her favorite color was pink. Bright pink. She sparkled like no other. She wore Christmas sweaters with sequins and had a statue of a butler, tray outstretched, in her house. If you knew her well, you know all of that.
If you knew her well, you also know she didn’t want people making a fuss over her. When she was sick, she kept the details private, only telling a few of us the truth. Even then, we had to piece things together and make a plan. She didn’t want us taking time out of our lives to take care of her. We did anyway, but she fought it often. Once, after coming home late on a Saturday, I showed back up early Sunday morning, because Mom needed help. You should’ve seen how mad she was, when she realized I left my family to be with her. She got over it, but it took a minute.
When she died, we knew we wouldn’t do things like everyone else. There wouldn’t be a fancy visitation, with lines of people in suits, passing tissues around and exchanging awkward condolences. She would’ve hated that. We couldn’t ever think of the appropriate place to have a funeral. She didn’t have a home church, or any church that mattered much to her at all. We thought about having a gathering at the local pizza place, complete with pitchers of beer, but it never felt like the right time.
We weren’t delaying the inevitable. I’m sure she has friends who wondered if we were doing right by her, putting this off until the right time. We didn’t care. My brothers and I knew it’d be right when it was right.
Mom loved the beach. Before she died, she asked if we’d all go to the beach with her for a week during the upcoming summer. Unfortunately, we ran out of time.
I told you we’d know when it was right. We planned one last beach trip with Mom, scheduled around October 10, exactly one year after she left us. We booked a week at a beach front cottage and hired a boat captain for a sunset cruise.
Nothing in our family ever runs very smoothly, and there’s always inappropriate humor. We wouldn’t have it any other way. Feel free to reference “The Big Lebowski” if you’re so inclined. We met the boat captain around 5 that day, paid the deposit, and lugged a cooler aboard. It was a beautiful day, and we set sail through the marshes of the Carolina low country. Our captain told us all about the wildlife we saw, from birds to oysters, and pointed out the various grasses and tidal curiosities. He’d mentioned taking the scenic route, but, well, we weren’t just there for the scenery.
I called my brother over and asked, “Do you think this guy knows why we’re out here?” Everyone else got a little antsy, and we awkwardly whispered to each other, wondering who would remind him of our purpose. My other brother finally went up to the guy, saying, “Where exactly are we going?” When the captain told us he was taking us to the lighthouse, I piped up with, “Did your boss tell you we are here to scatter our mother’s ashes?”
Silence. And then he laughed. He was pretty sure they told him, but he was pretty sure he forgot. Whoops. Believe it or not, we laughed, too.
The sun was setting, and there was a gentle breeze. We were the only boat on the water. We let Mom go, into the salty water she loved, surrounded by the people she loved. It was perfect. One year later, it was just right.