If you have been following me for a while, you may already know that both my parents died at the age of 61 (six years apart) from cancer. Being an only child and a single mom with an infant was pretty difficult, to say the least. After my dad died in 2003, my mom kept his ashes in her closet. It was something we would joke about from time to time. “Oh, dad’s in the closet.” Or, “When should we take him out of the closet?” But I was serious…I mean, what was she going to do with him? It had been several years and she had made no plans. So one day I finally asked her and she looked me in the face and said, “Not my problem. When I die, you can put them together and figure it out.” And she was totally serious. She had NO plans on spreading his ashes. Ever. That was now my “problem.” And it was a huge one. How do you determine someone’s final resting place, let alone both of them? And for someone like me that tends to over-analyze situations, this was just almost too much for me to handle by myself.
After my mom died in 2009, I then found myself with two boxes of ashes in MY closet. At first I thought I needed to do something quick. I thought I would throw them out of a boat near Galveston which was near
where I grew up. But that didn’t feel right. The water there isn’t the prettiest. Then I thought I could travel to blue water and do it, but I worried about the ashes getting lost on the plane. If you have ever had
to go to a funeral home to pick up ashes, you know they are actually pretty heavy. So I thought I could carry them on the plane in a rolling suitcase…but they are heavy and I had no idea how I would get them into the overhead bin. I would have to ask for help... "Excuse me, can you help get these ashes up here for me?" Anyways, as you can see, I was struggling to come up with the best resting place for them. And it was driving me absolutely crazy. I finally decided to give myself some time so I wouldn’t end up just throwing them in my back yard out of sheer desperation. Yes, that did cross my mind!
In 2010 I started dating Justin, who is now my awesome husband. When he moved in, I gave him my closet and moved my stuff to the second closet. But I had to warn him…if he was going to live with me and take that closet, he had to be okay with Larry & Phyllis in there with him. He said that would be fine. Whew…they were finally out of MY closet! He even talked to them sometimes which I thought was great given that he never got to meet them. How lucky to find a great guy that didn’t think I was nuts for keeping these ashes all these years. And he's just as nutty as me talking to them. Perfect match!
Right before the holidays in 2011 I decided that it was time to
let my parents go free. My decision was to spread the ashes over Bear Lake in southern Colorado which is where they spent many afternoons fishing. It was going to be perfect, so I told myself in my head. So literally a few days after I made this huge decision, we jumped in the car and drove from Texas to Colorado. We rented a room at the Cuchara Inn and were the only guests in the entire hotel. The owner gave us his home phone number in case we needed anything. It was a little like the movie The Shining…having an entire hotel to yourself in the dead of winter. And that is where the problem came in: it was winter which meant that Bear Lake was frozen and the roads to get to it were closed off. How the heck did I not think of this before we drove 2 states over? Why didn’t I have a plan B? I always have a plan B. I was devastated and my anxiety kicked in full force. We decided to sleep on it (in our empty hotel) and figure things out the next morning.
We woke up early and headed out toward the house my parent’s built that they planned to spend retirement in. Sadly, they barely lived there a year before the cancer hit. As we were
driving up the steep road to their house, I was flooded with memories and sadness that they didn’t ever get to enjoy what they had worked so hard to obtain. We pulled in front of the
house and it was covered in at least 5 feet of snow all the way up to the front door. The new owners apparently don’t spend the winters there or it would have been plowed. We hiked up to the house and peeked in the windows and I could picture them in there, enjoying retirement.
Justin and I eventually found the perfect spot to spread their ashes which I cannot share here because Colorado has some pretty specific laws about this sort of thing. I was hoping that the spot we picked would be okay for them. As soon as we were done, we headed back to town to get something warm to
drink. When I got in the car, I felt this absolute feeling of peace come over me. I cannot explain it fully as it was just like the weight of years had been lifted off me. Something I had dreaded and stressed over for years was finally done.
We found this cute little café/coffee shop in LaVeta and went
inside. We were freezing cold as we live in Texas and didn't quite prepare for December in Colorado. Everyone could tell we were not local so we found ourselves trying to explain what brought us to this part of the state, in this tiny town, in the middle of winter. Justin was talking with the owner behind
the counter when I turned and saw this beautiful flower on a stand against the wall. I have no idea why, but I was SO drawn to this flower. I am not even into flowers or anything of the such so it was weird that I was obsessed with it. Well, I did take Horticulture in college at Texas A&M and grew a few unidentified plants on my apartment stove... Anyways, I interrupted
their conversation and asked the lady what kind of flower was it, where do you get it, why is it blooming in winter, etc. She said it was a White Paper Narcissus. I had never heard of this flower, but for some reason, I pulled out my iPhone and wrote the name down. (I didn't even spell it right!) I didn’t snap a picture of the flower as I knew I would remember the beauty of it, but I did know I would forget the name. This was at 10:08am mountain time which would have been 11:08 in Texas. This detail is important.
Justin and I then thanked the owner for their hospitality and she even sent us on our way with a bag of free baked goodies. We then began the drive back to Texas.
We got to our house late the following night and I walked in through the kitchen and turned on the light. I seriously almost fell over when I saw a White Paper Narcissus sitting beautifully on my kitchen table with a note from my best friend Jennifer. It was almost too much for me to handle. I had to grab onto the kitchen counter to keep from keeling over. I immediately called her and demanded to know what day and time that she purchased this flower. She told me it was around 11am the previous morning. The exact same time I was looking at one in a tiny cafe in Colorado. She was out shopping, saw it, and was drawn to it for some unexplained reason as well. She was drawn to it enough to buy it and leave it on my table for me when I came home. And I might mention, I didn't talk to her while I was gone as there was literally no cell reception for most of our trip. I get tears in my eyes just writing about this. I mean, how can you explain this? It wasn’t like Jenn came to my house all the time and left me flowers. This could only mean one thing to me: it was a sign and a gift from my parents, through Jenn. What else could it mean? At the exact time I was drawn to the flower in Colorado, minutes after spreading my parents’ ashes, Jenn was drawn to the same flower in Texas and had to get it for me. This is what I know to be true. It was a sign that I could finally be at peace and know that they were at peace. It was a sign that they were happy with the place we chose to spread their ashes. It was a sign to tell me all was going to be okay.
My 40th birthday was two weeks ago and my incredible mother-in-law sent my husband home with a White Paper Narcissus for my birthday. When he walked in, I just thought how incredibly sweet and thoughtful of her to remember the significance around this flower for me. When I talked to her on the phone she said she called every florist in town and no one had one. So she had given up the plan to get one for me. But later that day she was at her local grocery store shopping and they had one!
Even though people leave our lives, there are still signs of them all around us. Sometimes it has to hit you over the head to realize it, but they are there and they are with us. Is the sign always going to be something as huge as this was? Probably not, but don’t be surprised if it is. I find comfort in knowing that my parents are watching over me each and every day. I don’t have all the answers to heaven and what really happens, but I do believe they are my angels.
One final note: If you tell your family you want to be cremated, do them a favor and give them some ideas on where you would like your ashes to be spread. You don’t have to give specific coordinates on a map, but at least a general idea of what you would prefer. No one should have to go through what I did to make such a decision with no direction. I can laugh about it now because it is done, but darn my mom for leaving me with such a task and no guidance!
My mission as a Certified Health Coach is to make the world a happier, healthier place, one person, one meal at a time, with love and gratitude. I work to inspire others to live a life of prevention and overall wellness!