“What’d you do this weekend?”
The one question I hoped no one asked me to start my week. Not because I was ashamed, but as usual, for fear of bringing someone into a conversation they didn’t see coming at 9AM. Picture this…they ask while making small talk, we’re pouring our morning coffee, I pause because I am trying to think of a way to say “I spread my dad’s ashes” in a cheery tone (no one likes a Debbie downer on a Monday morning). Their eyes get big and yadda, yadda, yadda…we part ways both wishing that exchange didn’t happen. Another part of the process that I just have to fake or push through.
So why am I sharing now? Well for one, no one talks about this part. The fact that our actual goodbyes are just now starting is a big deal. And two, it was truly an amazing day. Amazingly sad, amazingly hard, but amazingly blessed because Dad found so many ways to tell us he was there. And I don’t want to forget those signs. So here we are…
Dad’s wishes were to be cremated and he was only able to give me two chosen destinations in our discussions before the pain meds took their toll. Those places are actually out of state. But I wanted a local spot, somewhere I can go visit him, somewhere I can talk to him. Very much like Jack’s tree in This Is Us. So we agreed on a local spot that may or may not permit what we did – that’s right, I was a rebel for Dad!
Why May 20th to do this? Because we were invited to attend a memorial service for the families of hospice patients in the past year as they read the names out loud for reflection. We figured that this would be Dad’s day. We’ll let the tears fall and keep falling. If anyone knows our journey thus far, they’d know nothing has gone smoothly. This was no exception. After reading all of the names from their list, they asked if they’d missed anyone… Sigh – such sweet, unorganized volunteers. Of course we were skipped. *facepalm*
We then hiked as a family to our chosen spot. It was so hot and humid, we were all becoming more dehydrated as the day went on from crying. But that’s when Dad stepped in. The first 30 minutes of our hike, I was second-guessing everything. Is this the right choice? I’m picking a final resting place, would he approve? At that perfect moment where I questioned everything, I looked up and a cardinal sat on the branch beside me. For those who don’t know, it’s said cardinals are a sign of your loved ones from Heaven paying a visit and I so believe it. This cardinal just sat and looked at me, only being a foot away, as if to say “I’m here. You did good, kid”. And it’s color was such a vibrant red. From that second on, the worry was gone. We saw this cardinal multiple times in the hike, as if it traveled the 2.5 miles with us. And finally, when we reached our destination, there he sat waiting for us. I could hear his words, “what took you so long? What a great spot!”
We decided this was my turn to spread the ashes since the location was my idea. We’ll all take turns at the different sites. Truthfully, I’ve been nervous about this for a long time. Many of my relatives have been cremated, but I’ve never been involved with their final wishes. Thankfully, a calm came over me as I opened the urn and I did it. Again, not without a little faux pas, but I did it. Emotions of doing so really haven’t hit me until 48 hours later. I let a part of him go, but I did as he asked and that makes me more proud than anything else. As we hiked back to our car, the wind picked up as we talked about him and told funny stories. I know that Dad wrapped us in hugs as we left him on that mountain and I’ll never forget it. I know he was with us.
Mom said that as we made our trek, all she could think of was a particular song. Isn’t it amazing how lyrics can take on a whole new meaning? I feel it’s only fitting to end the post with these words:
Go rest high on that mountain
Son, your work on Earth is done.
Go to Heaven a-shoutin’
Love for the Father and the Son.