Those kind readers that have been around a while will remember that my Mother struggled with Alzheimer’s disease for about five years, prior to passing out of this earthly realm in March of this year. I have written about her struggle and how it impacted our relationship and family several times, and if you are interested you can see those posts at this link.
When she passed in March, my sister, husband, and I were not sure how we would honor her memory, but we knew it would involve a trip to somewhere that was important to Mom to leave her ashes, as she had wished to be cremated. We talked about it and initially researched returning Mom to Germany where she was born and raised. This proved to be troublesome, as all manner of permits, government approvals, wads of cash, and interminable timelines were involved in transporting human cremains overseas.
The next reasonable option was Florida, where Mom lived for nearly 50 years, and where my sister and I grew up. We agreed on the weekend of Thanksgiving, which worked for all of our schedules, and we chose Cocoa Beach, which was central to Mom’s life. We booked an Airbnb condo and planned to drive down for the long weekend.
A friend had honored her parents with a biodegradable urn in the shape of a turtle that could be used for water burial, and I thought that would be perfect. Cocoa Beach is surrounded by water; obviously, you have the ocean on the east side, then the Banana River Lagoon to the west, then Merritt Island, where we lived as kids, and then the Indian River to the west of that. Many choices. There are several types of biodegradable urns and websites where you can order them, but I bought ours from Stardust Memorials.
I started researching boat companies, deep sea fishing charters, scenic tour operators and the like in the Cocoa Beach area and found lots of options, but few that actually mentioned ash scattering. I called several and got various responses, but I was sold when one Captain told me “It’s a gray area, so we’ll do it”. 😀 Just in case it could be troublesome, I will leave the tour company nameless here, but would be happy to share it privately if you are interested. I made a private tour reservation for Saturday, November 25, 2017.
Meanwhile, a dear friend I’ve known since 6th grade agreed to join the ceremony on that date AND invited us to her home in Orlando for Thanksgiving dinner on the 23rd. ❤
My sister Lisa arrived at our home in Georgia on Tuesday night from Kentucky, and we prepared to drive the 600 miles to Cocoa Beach on Wednesday morning. We had not fully thought through the idea of driving to and from Florida on the two busiest travel days of the year, but it had to be done and the earlier the better. We were armed with audiobooks for both directions and it truly made the time fly by. We had an effortless check-in to our Airbnb, grabbed a quick dinner, and called it a night.
The next morning, we enjoyed a wonderful walk on the beach prior to making our way to Orlando.
In Orlando, we enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving meal with our long-time friend and her family. We would see her again on Saturday for Mom’s send off.
Later that evening, we stopped by the home of another dear friend’s family for a quick visit as well. We were truly thankful to be surrounded by love on this Thanksgiving day.
Friday was a misty, rainy and chilly day, so we had a leisurely breakfast, relaxed and then spent an hour or so picking up trash on the beach. #optoutside No Black Friday shopping for us!
Saturday morning, I went out to the truck to get the excess ashes that wouldn’t fit in the turtle to scatter on the beach. Lo and behold, the truck tailgate WOULD NOT OPEN. We have a 2010 Honda Ridgeline, the cool, original style, which has a tailgate that swings open like a door from right to left and also opens like a traditional tailgate. Neither of the latches worked. Mom was in the in-bed trunk, one of the neatest features of this model. We were beside ourselves. Months of planning and now we can’t get her out??? My sister and I had the same thought immediately: Mom does NOT want to be here. Arghh!
So I called the nearest Honda dealer, in Cocoa, which is about 30 minutes away. They didn’t have anyone I could speak to in service at that moment, but they assured me they had availability, so we headed over there. Immediately upon arrival at Space Coast Honda, we had a Service advisor, the Service Manager, and a lead tech working on the tailgate! Within 30 minutes, they had removed the tailgate panel and diagnosed the problem. It was a tiny plastic piece that connects the latch rod between the two latches, and it had broken. This piece didn’t have a part number, and they normally don’t stock them, but they found one! A miracle of miracles; maybe Mom is ok with being here, she was just testing our resolve! 🙂 And YES, I left them a glowing review for the excellent service.
We hurried back to the beach to have a nice lunch before the boat tour. We enjoyed a water view and the most beautiful, sunny day, especially compared to the drizzly and chilly days since we had arrived in Florida!
We met our tour boat at the appointed time, and in another amazing coincidence, a high school friend was part of the crew…what are the chances? The Banana River Lagoon is a gorgeous area and the crew shared the history of the conservation efforts as we cruised. We saw so many dolphins and even a manatee surfaced and showed us his broad, flat tail, although we didn’t catch it on film.
As they welcomed us aboard, the crew had shared that they had in mind the perfect resting place for Mom, and we approached the area about an hour into the tour. It was completely private, peaceful, and perfect for Mom’s water burial.
My sister read a few sentiments shared by a dear friend of hers in memory of Mom, while the rest of us said our goodbyes and told Mom we loved her as she and her turtle floated peacefully before slowly filling with water and sending farewell bubbles back to the surface.
The crew even sent us a screenshot of the GPS coordinates. 🙂 It was a wonderful, loving experience, and we all felt that Mom would be at peace here in the calm waters.
We toasted Mom with champagne and wine (of course) and took a few photos for posterity.
We finished out a lovely experience with a quick visit to the Cocoa Beach Art Show, a Thanksgiving weekend staple, and this low-key sunset.
The next morning, we felt Mom’s approval when we were greeted with this sunrise as we prepared for the journey home. I am sure a psychologist would have a field day with the ‘approval’ comment, but like many daughters, we had some difficult times with Mom over the years, yet we loved her very much and felt totally at peace with her Lovely Farewell. ❤