One Last Gift

Today is the 7th anniversary of my mother’s passing. I normally don’t mark the day as I would rather remember her on her birthday – only 15 days from today. It feels more positive, I guess. This year, however, I had a task. There’s a long story behind why I still have some of my mother’s ashes in my possession. Certainly some people keep ashes but that was never my intention. I always wanted to free them. It seemed wrong to keep them confined as they had been for so many years already. So today was the day to do this and what a perfect day it was.

Mom enjoyed being by a lake. Her favourite was Lake Huron, its magnificent shores outlining the South Western edges of the province of Ontario. As a child she spent summers by the water or tooting around in a small motor boat. As an adult she took every opportunity to be by a lake until she and my father were able to purchase a cottage of their own in the early 1990’s. I can still clearly see her sitting relaxed in her beach chair in the sand, a golf hat perched on her head, her large, blue-tinted sunglasses and big, happy smile decorating her face. She was definitely in her element there.

Unfortunately, I don’t have easy access to Lake Huron. It’s a good 9 hour drive from Ottawa. So I decided that Lac De L’Argile, the lake at which my cottage sits, would be an appropriate memorial place both for her and for me. Today, Lac De L’Argile sparkled like a pool of diamonds. It really couldn’t have been more beautiful. I brought the ashes with me to the dock and sat for a long time, in solitude, admiring the view. Then, as I struggled with the thought of releasing what was left of my mother, the tears came. I never imagined it would be that difficult.

I could have wallowed in my emotions for a long time, but suddenly I heard her voice in my head, pragmatic as always, “For God’s sake, Isobel, stop crying and let me out of this container!” I had to laugh out loud, and, with that, clambered down upon the rocks at the side of the dock. I had no idea then, if there was a right or wrong way to release a person’s ashes so I stuck my hand in them and tossed a handful into the wind. They didn’t feel as I had expected. They were more granular. The thought of what that could mean both unsettled me and comforted me. I stuck my hand in a second time and watched the ash catch the wind and then settle into the wavy waters.

To be honest, the effect was less than overwhelming. I’d always imagined a wisp of light ash being carried across the lake like a veil and I would feel my mother’s soul being lifted and freed from the bounds of the earth. But then my imagination always has a streak of romantic unreality to it. What else was I to do then? Let the water carry them away? I upturned the container and the ash slid into the waters just beyond the shore.

That is when the most unexpected and beautiful thing happened. Instead of floating on the water’s surface, the ash began to sink and appeared like a white, linen sheet obscuring the view of the bottom. Then slowly, as the waves continued to gently toss them, the ashes began to plume and then roll along and over the underwater rocks like mists. Long, scroll-like tendrils reached out, swirled and then disappeared, over and over again. It was like an ever-changing, ever-extraordinary work of art. It took a long time to dissipate, maybe 30 minutes, and I found I was so intrigued by it I couldn’t take my eyes off it for a moment.

I climbed back onto the dock and stood to take in the extent of what the day had to offer. As the sun shone on my face, I smiled from the heart. My mother’s body and soul were finally free. Funny thing is, I thought I was doing something for Mom, but I think she did more for me – just as she did in life. Her one last gift is an experience of unexpected beauty I’ll never forget. Thank you, Mom. I miss you and love you. Rest in peace. ❤


10 thoughts on “One Last Gift

  1. Letting go someone we love is always hard. But if you let that beloved departed share with every single action you take, you’ll always feel them with you. I don’t think our beloved ones should be confined to a box or a coffin. I think they should be with us.
    Beautiful story.


    1. I agree, Gabriela. Carrying a persons memory in your heart is the best way to keep them with you. I think this experience I had today gave me a better appreciation for ritual. Everyone needs to grieve and deal with grief differently and in their own way and I’m glad I found a way to deal with mine. Thanks for your lovely comment.


  2. This is probably one of the most endearing posts on your blog. I’ve certainly never read anything as beautifully touching like this anywhere before. Its power over me is made more profound because it stirred the lingering memories of my own mom. 13 years ago, very close to this date, I lost her too. I think about her everyday but I haven’t had my chance to cry her yet. Perhaps I should go alone to a place she loved and release her. I don’t have her ashes in an urn but rather deep in the vault of my soul.
    Thank you for sharing Isobel.


    1. Thank you so much Abufares. After today I would highly recommend you do this for yourself. It’s actually quite amazing how much relief and happiness it brings. Besides, it’s always lovely to spend time with someone who’s gone and whom you miss dearly.


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