On the wings of an eagle

by Bella Rum

The Brother-In-Law and his sister made the trip up from Florida, arriving on Monday afternoon. They only stayed a few days; they were here on a mission. They brought my sister’s ashes with them. When The Brother, The Husband and I made the trip down to Florida for the funeral a few weeks ago, I told my brother-in-law that my sister and I had talked about cremation as a choice, and about our wishes for the outcome of our ashes.

A few years ago, my sister and I hatched an idea to meet somewhere for Thanksgiving and spend some time together. It seemed like the perfect holiday to take advantage of such an endeavor. We got off-season rates, Thanksgiving is not like Christmas, our children are adults who don’t live close to home, and it provided a four day weekend.

My sister and I rented a condo at Myrtle Beach. She and The-Brother-In-Law drove up and we drove down. It was a spectacular holiday for us: no stress, no grocery shopping, no cleaning, and best of all, no cooking. The guys played golf everyday because the weather was great. My sister and I shopped and went to movies and lunched. Everyone was happy.

One day, after shopping, we were on our way back to the condo when I mentioned that I had thought about how I wanted my remains to be handled. I told her that I wanted to be cremated and scattered in the River where we grew up. We lived on a beautiful slice of land – about thirteen acres – that ran along a wide and beautiful river. The river was an integral part of our lives and the lives of our family. She immediately agreed and said that was what she would like also. She even said, “Let’s talk to the guys about it tonight when we’re playing cards.” I agreed and then we promptly forgot all about it and never mentioned it again.

When I arrived in Florida, I felt I had to discuss it with The Brother-In-Law. It made me feel better that she had also mentioned it to our aunt and my other sister. I don’t think this would have mattered at all to The-Brother-In-Law; his only concern was that my sister’s wishes were carried out, and that everyone felt that their concerns had been heard and fairly addressed.

I was surprised that she had not discussed it with him, but I would later learn that there were many discussions they avoided this past year, things that one or the other of them couldn’t seem to face because they were battling so valiantly for life. I’m sure that talk of death was simply not possible for them.

The Brother-In-Law wanted a place he could visit her, and while scattering ashes to the wind may seem romantic, a place to visit and take flowers and heal was a deep need that had to be met for The Brother-In-Law. My niece and I went with him to choose a stone and a place in the cemetery. Some of her ashes would remain there and The Brohter-In-Law would bring the rest to us in a few weeks. This way the wishes of everyone were met.

On Wednesday, we took her ashes out into the river and scattered some of them in the waters over my father’s oyster ground and the rest in the mouth of the harbor where we grew up. It was The Brother’s idea to scatter them over Dad’s oyster beds. He is very sensitive about such things and knew instinctively that this would help Dad, and he was right. Dad was very pleased when we told him.

The Brother turned the motor off. We gathered together in the quiet, a small group who loved her first in life, and my brother in law who loved her last. Surrounded by uncommon beauty, I offered a short prayer in thanks for her life and the memories she left for us.

Just as The Brother-In-Law started to scatter the ashes, a bald eagle soared above us against a deep blue sky. My brother said he believed there was a legend about the eagle and the human spirit. That night I looked it up. As the legend goes, the eagle carries the spirit up to heaven.

I hope it was a sign that she is at peace. I think I will simply believe that.

Welcome home, sister.

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