Once we arrived at the beach I had thought everything would go smoothly, though the sense of urgency was still strong. The box was sealed with a sticker unlike any I had ever encountered, no tearing with my meager finger nails would lift it's edges, I attacked it with my car keys. My son stood somewhat idly by, toying with the camera. At last I got the box open, challenged by a thick plastic bag I tried to open this in a less crude fashion, but ended up breaking into it again with my keys. Having already removed shoes, I started toward the sea, bag in hand. "Do you want to......?" I asked my son. He shook his head and took a step back "I'll just do pictures, thanks." I hadn't really expected him to participate, but it seemed the right thing to at least ask.
Cold Pacific Ocean swirling my ankles, the sun just diving below the horizon, I plunged my hand into the bag that held my mother's ashes. I hadn't expected to feel little bits of bone. I had thought the ashes would be soft, almost inviting, like the finest of campfire ashes. These had bits of bone and some of those bits were not so small, some were larger than a thumb nail and oddly triangular. Perturbed, but undaunted, I sowed handful after handful into the tide. Looking over to my right I saw a dark shape bobbing in the tide quite near the shore. "Great" I thought "a dead seal." I continued to keep an eye on it and was relieved to see it was, in fact, a live seal. Curious it being so close to shore. I began to think of the mythic Celtic Selkie . 'Perhaps the Selkie has come to claim back one of it's own, ' I thought playfully. "Do you see the seal ?" I called to my son, pointing. I couldn't hear his reply. She would have wanted there to be a seal, waiting for her, I'm quite sure of it. She loved the sea in all it's myriad of forms and moods.
When I was planning her memorial the officiant, a charming female Rabbi from New York City, assured me that memorials were for the living, that the dead were not going to reach out of the grave and grab you if it wasn't just right. I wasn't so sure. I saw my mother's hand jiggling reality. Why else would, at the last moment, this particular Rabbi be called in ? We were having a non-denominational service, but my mother loved Jewish people and always talked about her Jewish friends and she grew up in NYC, really identified with that city. She would enjoy this. If she wasn't hanging around, how come I kept getting great parking places ? I kept my doubts to myself and made plans according to what I thought she would like. Despite the words of the Rabbi, the dead do reach out and grab you from the grave, especially if they want to be put into their grave, sort to speak. Three days before I waded into the ocean I had woken up with a start in the middle of the night feeling like there was something wrong. Next night I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like there was something I had to do, just had to do. Then last night I had woken up thinking there was something seriously wrong with me. I thought maybe I was having a heart attack, except I could feel no pain and my pulse seemed normal. I wasn't hot, so, no, it wasn't a hot flash. The only impression I had was that there was a circular area of heat that wasn't hot on my chest. I wondered if I was just flat out dying, and maybe this was what it felt like to die. Suddenly without the use of algebra or any sort of higher math it all added up and I realized it was time to let loose my mother's ashes. The next morning I glanced at my calendar and found that it was the Autumnal Equinox, an important and auspicious day astrologically. I counted back and found that it had been almost exactly 9 months to the day since she had passed. Was this some sort of reverse gestation? I don't know, I'm just reporting the facts.
Mother peacefully united with the Pacific, we headed home, wrapped in the dark.
"Thanks for coming with me."
"Did you see the seal."
"Nah, I didn't, are you sure there was one."
"Yeah, but I'm not sure it was a regular seal."
Happy Halloween, Samhain, Dias Des Muertes, remember it is the time when the veils between the worlds are the thinnest..........