When my husband was first told that he had terminal cancer, we were stunned. Our thoughts went from anger and disbelief to depression and acceptance. Soon it became clear that his life, as we knew it, was about to come crashing to an end.
One day we talked about what he would like me to do with him after he died. He was quite clear on what he wanted and did not want. He did not want calling hours and a traditional church funeral. He did want to be cremated. He wanted his ashes strewn at Daytona Beach and at a local park.
There is a small snake of a body of water called Nine Mile Creek which flows through Marcellus Park near his family homestead. His family has traditionally shared most of their celebrations at this park. Likewise, Daytona Beach held many fond memories for us. He wanted his ashes divided & spread in both places. I agreed to take care of that for him.
Enter my stepdaughter into the mix. We had experienced several differences of opinion during Jim's illness and about his chosen treatment. This was literally the final confrontation. She decided that her father would be sent off with a religious ceremony, buried in the Roman Catholic Cemetery near his parents, and would not cremated.
Jim cherished his Mom and liked the idea of being near her for eternity, but he still wanted to be at the park and the ocean. She refused to have her father's cremains divided up and strewn in the water; becoming CO-mingled with dead fish and trash. I wanted to honor his dream of his ashes blending with the environment of two of his favorite places. She was adamant. I, however, was in control.
We negotiated. We compromised. She agreed to cremation, but no Roman Catholic Church funeral and no wake. I proposed burial of his ashes on top of his Mother's grave with the ceremony being performed by someone from the family church. Further, that we would follow this brief, private family celebration with a memorial service at his daughter's nondenominational church. This was where she would get her emotional support anyway, so why not say good-bye there.
As my husband was of Scottish decent, it was appropriate that we had a bagpiper playing music at the cemetery. The service was brief and tastefully conducted by a lay reader from the Roman Catholic Church that his brothers and sisters attend. The flowers were very simple. The grandchildren released white balloons at the end as the bagpiper played amazing grace.
Later we had a very nontraditional memorial service for family and friends; with a lot of music and readings. Two of Jim's granddaughters read the scripture selections. His daughter spoke briefly and then the minister announced that I would be offering the eulogy; as I knew Jim better than he did.
As a means of saying good-bye to the love of my life and to her father, we ended the service with about 25 color slides of Jim's life. They were projected on a mammoth screen, in a darkened sanctuary as a teenage girl, with a crystal clear voice, sang The Wind Beneath My Wings, without any musical accompanyment. This service was followed by a short reception in the church parlors.
I cheated though. Before going to the cemetery I opened the container that encased Jim's cremains.I removed perhaps a third of the ashes and put them in two zip-lock baggies. I never told his daughter. On the way to the cemetary I stopped at the park and slowly emptied one bag into the peaceful creek and watched as Jim floated off to blend with his homeland.
Weeks later I took the other baggie to Daytona Beach. In the midst of one of the most forceful huricanes to hit Florida in 1999, I took Jim out on a pier and released his spirit into the churning ocean.
Jim's final resting places are so consistant with his life. At times he was quiet and peaceful and blended with his surroundings. Other times he was angry and loud - fighting for what he believed was right. Furthermore, the one person that was his idol, his guardian angel, the one true love of his life; was his mother. I truly believe that Jim's soul is living still with God in Heaven. His spirit, however, lives at his Mother's breast, the peaceful creek, the angry sea and in my heart.