family life


Today is the day I dealt with the “Chicago portion” of my mom’s ashes. It was a wonderful experience. I drove to Foster Ave. beach where my mother loved to lie in the sun and swim and I set up a little altar. Nothing much, just a photograph of my mother and I together, my prayer beads, and her ashes (in a Ziploc), all together on a towel on the sand. The sun was setting behind a couple of high-rises and I set up in the sand in a strip of sunlight glowing flat and orange from between the buildings. I had an iPod with me so I was able to listen to some of her singing.

Once I felt ready, I ambled my way into the chilly lake water and scattered her to the waves. There was something very relieving in the process. It felt like I was liberating her and there was a joy in that release. It was a beautiful quiet place with young families playing in the sand, a very young toddler chasing seagull after seagull who were none-too-worried and just scooted along rather than flying away. There was a moment of heaviness where I felt the intensity of not wanting to let her go, but that subsided. I considered diving in to the water as I had only waded in up to my thighs, but something about that didn’t feel quite right. I was releasing her and to dive in would have felt, at least to me, like an act of merging together again.

I returned to the towel and listened to some more of her singing. I queued up a version of her singing the Beatle’s song “Within You, Without You.” It’s a simple version of her singing unaccompanied at home. The words somehow felt appropriate:

We were talking about the space between us all,
And the people who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion,
Never glimpse the truth, ’till it’s far too late, and they pass away.

We were talking about the love we all could share
When we find it, to try our best to hold it there
With our love, we could save the world, if they only knew.

Try to realize it’s all within yourself, no one else can make you change.
And to see you’re really only very small, and life flows on
Within you and without you.

We were talking, about the love that’s gone so cold,
And the people, who gain the world and lose their soul,
They don’t know, they can’t see, are you one of them?

When you’ve seen beyond yourself then you may find peace of mind is waiting there
And the time will come when you see we’re all one, and life flows on
Within you and without you.

I wrote a note to her on the back of the photograph and had dug a hole in the sand, but it didn’t feel right to bury it. That would have felt like more of a merging together kind of thing than a separation or setting free. I walked from the sand towards the restroom to change from my wet shorts and then put on my sandals and looked out over the sand and lake where I had just been. This experience maybe a little difficult to explain, but I really felt like I was a witness to my life. I was incredibly sensitive to and aware of my own experience, as if I were truly in the center of my own life and experiencing it right from it’s own heart. It was a perfectly unique experience that no one else in the world could possibly have, because it was me and it was my mother and her ashes and this lake and this moment and I was fully present to it, deeply embodied or as my friend Diane would say, “fully in alignment.”

Afterwards I walked through groups of people scattered in the sand and gathered on the grass and had a blissfully sublime experience with her music playing in my headphones. It was one of those fully-present-to-the-beauty-of-life-exactly-as-it-is-unfolding kind of walks. I felt so blessed to be alove( pesky typo) alive, to be able to experience. I saw love, pure and simple, as if it were the actual substance that we are all made of. She sang Frank Loesser’s Inchworm:

Inchworm, Inchworm, measuring the marigolds,
You and your arithmetic, you’ll probably go far.
Inchworm, Inchworm, measuring the marigolds,
Seems to me you’d stop and see how beautiful they are.

The sweet thing there was as I was walking and listening, the people I saw were the marigolds. Seems to me you’d stop and see how beautiful they are……

Reminds me of a quick story of how after she died, her old friend and florist Med Lange, in homage to my mother and the song Inchworm, gave the family an arrangement of marigolds with a flexible tape measure wrapped through them and a worm used to sense soil moisture popping it’s head up from the dirt and a very sweet loving card. I was very touched by that at the time and obviously still am.

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