Thursday, August 12, 2010

July 26th, 2010 – Happy Birthday, Mom!

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Mary Anna
Mom’s closest friend on the island is Mary Anna.  She and mom worked together in the paramedical industry for years. She moved from Texas to the island after falling in love with the place.  Now, Mary Anna runs a thrift store, the proceeds from which support her true passion, the Whidbey Animal Improvement Foundation (WAIF).  WAIF is a no kill animal shelter for the local four-legged domesticated populace. When I told her back in March about my plans to take mom to Whidbey for her birthday, she was elated and began alerting mom’s friends up there.  We kept in touch over the months as we planned the event.  It had been five years since I was on the island and saw Mary Anna.  The last time mom was up was when she sold her property there back in 2008.

There are few things in life I enjoy more than riding my Harley.  Still, the thought of not having to ride a long distance today was very appealing.  We were all looking forward to seeing mom’s friends and celebrating her birthday.  We stopped and picked up some yellow and peach colored roses (mom’s favorite) for each of us, plus a few spares.  We left some flowers with Mary Anna and mom’s friends on the shore and headed up to the bridge.

The bridge had a three foot wide railed walking path on each side.  As our group made our way across on the northwest facing path, I carried with me the maroon velvet bag containing the precious cargo I had so gingerly placed in the Harley tour pack and had tended to the entire trip.  We stopped about half way across to take in the view and wait for other pedestrians to pass.  As the others dropped roses off the bridge, I removed a container from the bag, opened it, and poured the contents from it off the bridge rail and into the Washington wind.

There were discussions aplenty over the legality of scattering ashes in public.  The reality was it was human remains, but they were reduced to calcified deposits, which realistically could be found in the soil most anywhere.  It was suggested that we scatter the ashes at the state park on the north shore where few people would notice.  I didn’t come this far to compromise on the details of the promise I made to mom. 

As the breeze carried the dust cloud away, it seemed to evaporate into the air like a captive spirit finally released to join a realm it was long intended to be a part of.  As I poured from the bridge, mom’s friends down on the north beach were watching from below.  They described the scene for me saying the sunlight reflection from the dust formed rainbow like colors and that an eagle was soaring above us. It was a simple but beautifully sentimental tribute.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t a sad event at all.  In fact, I was somewhat reveling in my accomplishment, having traveled so far in such a short amount of time to keep the promise.  I knew I could handle the emotional toll of the memorial itself.  But honestly, I wasn’t as confident in my ability to endure riding over 850 miles a day in Midwest summer heat for three days straight.

It was done.  The promise was kept and mom’s friends on the island got their chance to say goodbye. Somehow still, after all the hours and dollars spent modifying the bike, planning the routes, and then actually riding the 2,300 miles, the sense of closure I’ve sought since mom’s passing - the same closure I expected to feel after this event - still eludes me.  Since she left us in February, I believed in and waited for some sort of cathartic event to transpire that would finally deliver the emotional closure that we all seek after the loss of a loved one.  I’ve since learned that in my case, that catharsis is actually the realization that closure of this sort never comes.  Acceptance gradually increases and the sadness gradually decreases, but there is no closure.   The rip in my heart has healed, but a life long scar remains.

I’ve wondered for years what the draw to Whidbey was for mama.  She was a born and bred Texan with ambition whatsoever to live anywhere else.  Nevertheless, she loved this island, its people, and its culture.  Perhaps this explains it.  This poem is from the book “Take Our Words for Whidbey”; a collection of poems, essays, and stories from the Whidbey Writers Group.

The Pull of Tides
Some of us are borne toward islands
From the moment of our becoming.
From the center of the land
We’re moved, in bits and pieces of our years
Toward salt and waves and rocky shores.
We wrap fog around ourselves
And stand, bent like trees, against the wind.
The swirl of currents, seaweed twining,
The pull of tides takes us
Home.

- Rowena Williamson