This was a day a long time coming. Your family had been planning it for a while but suddenly the timing was perfect. It was a day to say a final goodbye to you, and a day that would provide a few hours of stillness, at a time when life seems just too hectic.
Sometimes, something happens that forces us to slow down, and you provided that for me. I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by deadlines, trip planning and work commitments that all fused together and have given me no time to myself lately. But on this day, there was only one thing that would take priority.
It was 10 years, to the day, that we lost you to that horrible thing called cancer. Ten years. Some days, it seems like yesterday; others, such a long time ago. I miss you.
And on that 10th anniversary, last month, your family gathered to scatter your ashes. Why wait so long? Well, there was no real reason except that no-one seemed able to make a decision on where to do it.
We thought that scattering at sea was a good choice – but where, exactly? There was the beach you loved to holiday at, the one where you’d always see dolphins; there were beaches in New Zealand, which you still called home even after living most of your life in Australia; there were beaches close to home. Travelling too far meant that it was too hard to co-ordinate with all the family members, especially as three of your grandchildren are still all under five years old.
You had never expressed any wish that we could act on (sorry…not blaming you!).
As the 10-year anniversary of your death approached, we had to bite the bullet and make a decision. So we chose a place close to home to celebrate your life and love once more.
And as we drove there early that morning, my Jess asked me: “Have YOU thought about where you’d want your ashes scattered?” I promised I would give it serious thought and let her know; I have a few thoughts on the matter now. Because I know now that it’s good for everyone to have a bit of guidance on matters like this.
Paul hired a boat and we headed out on the water to say our last goodbye to you. It was one of those flat-bottomed “barbecue boats” and the bloke spent a few minutes explaining how to work the gas barbecue on board. I mean, really…did we look like we were going out for a barbecue? No esky, no nothing…just a discreetly wrapped “urn” and a few women with handbags. Oh, well…I had a camera too.
Not everyone was there. Just Paul and your kids – Matthew, Luke and Sarah, Matt’s lovely wife Chrissy, and their two beautiful daughters, so grown up you’d barely recognise them as the toddler and baby you knew and loved so briefly. Shannon stayed at home to look after the toddlers – Keira and Max, and Sarah’s Kayley. My Jess came with me, making us nine on the boat.
We puttered out onto the water, looking for somewhere quiet and private to do what we were there for. It was a glorious, clear day. The mountains in the distance looked as blue as the water (a millpond) and the light was beautiful. I took a few photos as we cruised along.
It will be no surprise if I tell you that we had a few laughs. There was an close shave when we found ourselves in water just a trifle too shallow (“Some of us might have to get out and push,” said Paul, taking off his shoes), and then the anchor didn’t quite catch, sending us drifting perilously close to a moored yacht, to shouted warnings from its occupants!
We know you wouldn’t have minded the laughter, on this solemn occasion. You always loved a laugh, and a good story!
Then we found a spot, anchored securely and fell silent. Matt took the lead, standing at the front of the boat and wishing you a final Godspeed. There were tears all round…and more laughs as a passing speedboat’s wake sent us bobbing around. “OK, Mum,” said your eldest, looking up at that blue, cloudless sky. “I’ve gone on long enough, have I?”
So we set you free on the waves. As your ashes floated away, I sent with you some flowers I’d picked from my neighbour’s garden (well, they hang over my fence!).
It was done. Goodbye dear Annie. Whenever we stand on a beach somewhere and think of you, we’ll know that you are out there somewhere, perhaps closer than we think, your spirit riding the current and the waves.