Sunday, January 29, 2012

On Closure (the beginnings of)

I had been feeling for a while like I needed the ashes to go to Maine. Thing is, I had kind of planned that a few people would come along with, and arranging it felt too complicated. Who can go on what day, and at what time, that sort of thing. And how do we all get up there, and do we stay or not stay? And should we go now, while it's cold, or wait until it's warm?

Yesterday, Saturday, I woke up feeling this pressure on me. It had to be NOW. I was anxious and snappish and cranky, and finally told Gene that I needed to just take them and get it done. I think I would have gone alone, but he offered to come along as driver and assistant. And off we went.

But Mom... you make ME share...
We brought along my comfort animal (we call him this because he is!). This was his longest car ride to date, and his first trip to the beach. My mother would have appreciated that he rode the whole way there on top of her ashes which were in between the front seats of the car. When we stopped for a break, Gene got himself "a snack" at McDonald's. There was some debate about who should have what part of the "snack". In the end, Yoshi only got a tiny tidbit.

I got a coffee. It's about all I will eat from McDonald's. Newman's Own, black. Iced in summer, hot in winter. When my mother was asking for frappes (caramel!) all the time I always got myself a coffee to be companionable while she sipped. It was ironic then that when we got to New Hampshire, Hampton Beach, I used my empty cup to tote ashes across the crowded beach. There were lots of people out with dogs and kids; life and activity all around. There was this lovely family playing touch football in the sand. Couples hand in hand, dogs chasing balls.

Convenient ash-hiding cup
But that really made it all the more perfect. We came here as a family when I was a kid, and on the last trip to Maine she had asked me to leave ashes here. And so I did. Being behind the camera was an excellent cover. I did not cry much here.
 Hampton Beach
I just waited for the ashes to wash out to sea, mingled with the sand.
Last bit
We headed north into Maine. First we stopped at Bob's Clam Hut in Kittery and split a clam platter, gluten and all. She would have liked that. She probably would have liked it better if I'd added on chowder, eaten the fries, and asked for extra tartar sauce, all washed down with Coke Classic. I went with six clams and one fry - enough to say I'd had it, but not enough to make me too horribly sick from the wheat I hoped. They do have gluten free options, but it is just not the same.

Then we headed to the coast. First we stopped at Long Sands beach. We stopped at the southern end of the beach where it's very rocky and there were no people. Again I used the camera as a shield, snapping away and keeping distant emotionally.

Long Sands
This was maybe my favorite spot for the ashes. They were quickly swept out to sea, the smaller bits dropping down between the rocks, which felt very organic and beautiful; the ashes blending with the foam. I think I would not mind if my kids brought me here when I am gone. We came here when they were small and camped at Camp Eaton. We played on these very rocks in the evening at low tide. But I digress.

Next we went to Nubble Light. By now I was over the whole coffee cup thing. There was too much left to fit in the cup, and this was where she really wanted the bulk of the ashes to go. I just grabbed the bag and went. We clamored on the rocks for a bit; Gene trying to get me to head further away from people, and me insisting that I be in front of the light and "who cares about the people, anyway". Guess who won?

Right where she wanted to be
Not having the camera with me here changed things. I couldn't manage camera, ashes in a bag, slippery rock and get any decent pictures, so I handed it off to Gene. I went from observer to mourner in a heartbeat. As the ashes fell from the bag and floated around me in a gray cloud, I felt the pain of loss and the relief of the absence of someone who has eaten up so very many moments of my life. Now, I feel free and clear and clean in a way I never have before. Sometimes I resent the loss of so many days and years of my life; particularly the ones when I was very small. I wonder what I would be like if she had been more stable. Would I trust people more? Would I be more open with others?  Probably. Other times I realize that if she had died earlier I would not be who I am today. And that would be a loss in its own way.

She's in there
I put her exactly where I'd planned since our last visit, in a crevice that faces the light. She approved this last fall when I took pictures down here and showed them to her.

Here, I cried. I sat with Gene for a bit up against a rock and just was sad for a bit. This place is changed for me now. I don't know how that will affect me in the future, but then every pebble that drops in our life makes ripples, and this was really more like a big rock being dumped on one of my favorite places.

Then we took Yoshi up for his portrait. This is a tradition that really began with my kids and extended to Kioshi and now Yoshi as well.  He is most handsome. We met a few other dogs here, and he played nicely but not a lot - no fences, so no racing and running and jumping. He makes friends easily.
Tradition
Today I am sore which I think is from the gluten, and tired, but I feel a bit of healing. Less raw, I think, and definitely liberated in some new way. I wrote a lot the other day, and I will write more in the future; the things she wanted me to write about her life and about mine. In the end, when her own acceptance of her mental health issues became more real to her, she was adamant that I get it down. And I will.
She's in my car...
But for now the big question - do I vacuum? Or just pretend it never happened and leave her there?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Get a clean bag. vacuum and next time you go to Maine you can mix the ashes with the sand.

Nanci S said...

I am 5 1/2 years ahead of you in recovering from my mother's death by suicide. Her mental illness and death impacted my life immeasurably. Moving forward, your grief will be complicated so be kind to yourself.
You will be ok.....

SallyM said...

hum...I think I would probably try to shake the rug out in a pretty place near home. Of course, my cousin asked that we put him in his chicken coup, to be near his favorite chickens, so we did. And I know you have chickens :)

Ruby said...

Melissa, I am thankful that you chose to share this part of your life, although it can be somewhat painful. Many times we try to close off those childhood years and the trauma of it, but it affects us deeply and we cannot do that. It is a part of who and what we are today. And your sharing helps you as well as those of us going through some similar situations.

You dealt with her end days as well as you could. Grieving is part of life. But do know that many of us identify with each stage you go through.

My prayers are with you and for you.

And it is great to read your blog on the designing, hooking and knitting. Glad you are getting back into that as well. And the quilt is darling. Glad Yoshi loves it.

Ruby