Dad's Final Trip to the West Coast

As executor (executrix?) of my dad’s estate, part of my duties include fulfilling his wishes regarding his final resting place.  Or, in my dad’s case, places.  You see, my dad was one of those people who are so giving and loving, so family-oriented, that sharing themselves just comes naturally.  And so it was to be with his cremains: part to rest with his first wife in St. Joseph, MO; part to rest with his second wife in St. Louis, MO; part to rest with his mother and sister in Seattle, WA; and part to his favorite spot in the world at Ecola State Park, OR.  Last month, we embarked on a trip to bring the West Coast ashes to their final home.

On July 17th, my husband and I flew to Seattle with 3 suitcases and 4 carry-ons of varying sizes.  In one of the suitcases and one of the carry-ons were things from my dad’s apartment (and most recently my garage) that we were taking to my sister and a cousin in the Seattle area.  In one of the tote bags was a small box of my dad’s ashes and a larger, water-soluable urn of ashes.  All of these bags and totes made us look like we were moving instead of just visiting.  But American Airlines was quite happy to take our $55 for checked-luggage fees.

One of my cousins picked us up at the airport and, after spending several hours in her lovely home in Tacoma (and delivering her lamp), she drove us to Lake View Cemetery near Volunteer Park in Seattle.  There, on top of one of the hills, we gathered with my sister and her husband, other cousins, and even second and third cousins, to bury a small portion of Dad’s ashes between his mom’s and sister’s headstones.  It was a stunning day, and the cemetery is in a lovely setting overlooking the city.  Each of us said a few words and added flower petals around a wonderful photo my brother-in-law had taken at that very spot several years earlier when we visited Dad’s family site.  How incredibly fitting it was to return him there with that photo, nestled between two of his favorite women.

After this simple, touching memorial, we all went to one of the cousin’s house for a wonderful cookout/potluck.  It was such a treat to spend time with everyone, telling stories and catching up, laughing and picking on each other, and sharing great food and drink.  Long into the evening we chatted, eventually finding the men on the deck around a patio fire and the women inside comfortably ensconced on the couches.  It had been years since I’d seen some of my second cousins, with marriages and new babies filling in the intervening years.  What a blessing this evening was for us all.

The next day, my sister and brother-in-law drove us to Portland, OR where we stayed with one of the cousins who had come up for the Seattle memorial.  Once again we had a wonderful evening together at their lovely home.  The next day, after picking up a rental car, we drove out to Cannon Beach, the charming coastal town near Ecola State Park.  It was windy and overcast with the morning fog bank, so we bundled up and gathered up the tote bag containing Dad’s urn and the remaining flower petals.  The beach wasn’t crowded as it was still early and cool.  I saw children playing at the surf’s edge, dogs chasing seagulls, and a group on horseback up the coast towards the tall peninsula from which one can see stunningly beautiful vistas of the Oregon Coast.  Turning to look down the beach, I could see in the mist the famous “haystack” rock sitting out in the water that is the icon of Cannon Beach.  It brings back memories of other times I’d been here with my parents, and makes me ache that it’s Dad’s last visit to a place he’d always loved.

With shoes in one hand and the totebag in another, I waded across a small, shallow river that was also making its final journey to this beach.  A soft spot in the river’s sandy bed brought me to my knees in the chilly stream, laughing and sputtering.  After pouring the water out of the totebag, I realized that not only had I gotten the urn wet prematurely (remember, it’s water-soluable), but I had also dunked my little purse which contained my phone.  Smart phones are no longer smart, or functional, when immersed in water.  Knowing there was nothing I could do about it at the time, we continued out to the waves.

My Seattle cousin had been wise enough to suggest we  consult the tide chart before doing this.  Whipped by the wind, we stood at the water’s edge and talked of Dad and his love for this Coast.  We cried and laughed and said good-bye to a wonderful man.  Then my cousin walked the now cracked urn out into the surf and placed it in the the cold Pacific Ocean.  Immediately it was swallowed up, and Dad was released to the sea.

Godspeed, Dad.

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