Live for the moments you can’t put into words. This sounds like a beautiful sentiment.
But what if you are feeling sadness? Do you want to live for those moments?
DO YOU AVOID YOUR GRIEF?
I’ll be the first to admit l have avoided grief. But this time, I’ve arranged a trip whose theme is grief.
I drove over 700 miles from my home in North Carolina to the Airbnb I’d reserved. My dog, Sugar, is with me. I like to blame her for all my stops, but it’s my fault. And I made a lot in the early hours of the trip. Then as I crossed the Florida state border, I became anxious to arrive before dark. So, I stopped less. The thought of driving through the traffic jams in Orlando spurred me on.
Alas, Waze still had to route me around town via SR 429, also known as the Western Beltway. This part of the beltway was in the planning stages during my twenty-three years living in West Orange County. Being a country girl, I was not excited about the inevitable development and influx of people the beltway would bring.
AN UNEXPECTED GRIEF TRIGGER
Tears welled as I drove through yet another highway construction project amid high-density housing projects as far as the eye can see.
This is not a moment I want to live for.
But it is part of the grief I want to embrace during my two weeks in Florida. With this example, I’m grieving for what might have been and for the idyllic, natural countryside of my youth.
WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO EMBRACE GRIEF?
My experience with grief and sorrow has taught me that it is much better to deal with it than stuff it down. Since I allow my tears to flow, they are usually short-lived.
I’m not schooled in advanced psychology, but I am a certified health coach. So, I understand the value of talking, writing, and journaling about sadness.
SPREADING MY HUSBAND’S ASHES
Wayne was close to many of his students. It started with me in his first-year teaching. We had a natural bond that I likened to a father-daughter relationship in my high school innocence. But each time there was a reunion, Wayne came, and we sat together, sharing memories and our current lives. Another student, Stuart McCutcheon, also found a special place in Wayne’s heart. They enjoyed fishing, hunting, and all the associated male bonding. So naturally, Wayne chose Stuart as his best man at our wedding.
After Wayne’s passing, I arranged to send his ashes to Stuart because I knew they would be well cared for. Within weeks, we discussed the best time to complete Wayne’s request for his final resting place.
Long before Wayne’s cancer appeared, I initiated a difficult conversation. You know what I’m talking about, the discussion about funeral plans. Wayne was adamant about two things.
“I want to hear Amazing Grace at my memorial and spread my ashes from an airboat on Lake Kissimmee.”
The first request was carried out on March 25th, but Stuart wanted to arrange the second at the perfect moment. He chose November 19th for two reasons. First, it’s during duck hunting season, and second, it’s Wayne’s birthday.
SPREADING WAYNE’S ASHES
It was windy and cool when Sugar and I pulled into the Duck Camp. Stuart and I walked to the chairs encircling the huge firepit where many stories unwound with a can of beer or a glass of Jack Daniels. The container with Wayne’s ashes occupied one chair, and fellow hunter, Euwan and his girlfriend, Becci, sat nearby. Their airboat was moored a quarter-mile away on Lake Kissimmee.
We loaded up in Stuart’s pickup for the short drive to the lake. My face lit up when I saw the sturdy chair lashed to the deck of the airboat. Thankfully, I wouldn’t have to navigate the rungs to the usual high vantage spot. And Sugar would be easier to control, or so I thought.
Stuart called one more hunter, McCall, to join us in his camouflage bass boat. While we waited, Sugar explored the deck, curious about the tannic water and minnows along the edge. Suddenly, I heard a splash! Euwan quickly responded, pulling Sugar back onto the deck. She promptly jumped into my lap, shivering while soaking my jeans and sweatshirt. Although she shivered the entire time, her warm body shielded me from the brunt of the wind.
Stuart held onto the aluminum uprights behind my chair, Euwan turned the ignition, and the roar of the aircraft engine filled our ears. As we cleared the deck, Euwan cut the engine, McCall’s boat pulled up alongside, and Stuart lashed us together. This location is where Wayne started every hunting trip, full of anticipation. It was also the place he thanked God when they returned from one of his infamous fubar events. Stuart asked if I wanted to release Wayne’s ashes. I deferred. Although Wayne loved me dearly, I knew how close he was to Stuart. It was a beautiful ceremony, his ashes carried by the wind and the waves.
I KNEW WAYNE WAS WITH US
I experienced a few snafus too. Besides Sugar’s dip in the lake, I had a cell phone problem. Earlier, I tried to photograph the airboat at the dock. To my surprise, my phone screen was black, apparently inoperable. This was a critical moment, and I wanted to record it. I tried a few different tactics before giving up, assuming something terrible had happened to my iPhone.
After the ceremony, Euwan offered his hand as Sugar, and I stepped onto the sandy shore. He started the airboat as he and Becci waved their goodbyes. I let Sugar off-leash to explore the many trails left by odiferous lizards, her favorite prey. Next, McCall and I headed to a larger group of members of the Duck Club, gathered under the oak trees while Stuart walked out to a moored bass boat, retrieving two cold beers. Finally, we wanted to raise a toast to Wayne’s memory.
The reminisces started after brief introductions. Wayne was quite a storyteller, so many were familiar to me.
Still, I was concerned about my phone’s inoperability. So I sought the help of McCall. Then he realized the light level on my phone screen might be the culprit.
Wayne had a habit of accidentally dimming his phone screen, and Stuart or I would fix it. But, until that moment, it had never happened to me.
Wayne’s spirit dimmed my screen to tell me he was there. Perhaps he even gave Sugar a nudge. When I relayed my thoughts to McCall, a look of doubt immediately clouded his face. However, his disbelief didn’t fade my belief.
Since most of the gang was gathered together, I requested a photo. Everyone was happy to oblige. Then I heard the roar of airboats in the distance, and I switched to video mode. A random group of airboats flew by, indicating Wayne was with us. It reminded me of a Thunderbird flyover tribute. Finally, I captured Stuart on the dock, carrying our refreshments.
A Different Perspective
I felt sad and fully grieving when I started my trip down memory lane. The idea of living for the moments that can’t be put into words was clouded with tears. Now, as I write, I have a smile, proof that exploring grief helps dissipate it.
I’ve appropriately closed the book on the final chapter of my life with Wayne. However, beautiful moments replace sad ones, and there are new Wayne stories for sharing.
My heart is filled with love and compassion for you as you wander your path of grief.
Finally, it seems appropriate to include a video of Wayne at the helm of his airboat. We had just completed an amazing ride around Lake Marion when I took this video of him parking in our boat slip.