The overcast sky looked like a watercolor painting with a hundred different shades of grey and blue. As far as the eye could see, the colors were mottled together, forming a large and depressing dome over our heads. The ocean below us was brackish and foreboding. Looking down into the water, all I could see was a density of cold, black nothingness that sent tingles of fear down my neck. All of this seemed pitifully poetic, when you consider that we were about to bury my mom and my sister at sea.
We anchored the boat directly in front of the Huntington Beach pier. A landmark that we could always use to say hello to our loved ones. I held my mother's ashes tightly in my arms. She was in a beautiful heart box that was made from biodegradable paper. I was surprised by the weight of her ashes, they were so much heavier than I imagined. My sister Denise held my sister Ann's ashes and together we placed them into the ocean with bundles of hydrangea's and roses and spring flowers. My brother-in-law whispered a prayer, and we silently watched the boxes float away with the tide.
Later, Denise and I simply stared at each other. The immense gravity of our sadness was wedged between us, and neither of us could speak. A sister lost at the age of 46...and a mother gone after a terrible illness. Shock and weariness were etched on our foreheads. Neither of us could find the words to adequately express our emotions. This was our final, tactile moment together with Ann and mom. It was hard to let go...we were reluctant to accept the finality. We stayed out there, in the middle of the ocean, and watched until boxes drifted completely out of sight. And then we turned around and headed home.
It's amazing how poignant life becomes after losing a sister and a mother. I find myself caring about others more than I care about myself. I allow myself to smile more often and swallow critical thoughts that used to slip mindlessly through my lips.
Most of all, I feel everything.
I live very close to the pulse, now. Sights, smells and words are amplified and bristle against my skin. I can feel my heartbeat in my eyeballs and the hairs on my arms twitch. A ringing telephone causes my heart to skip a beat. A startled cat causes my stomach to drop down to my ankles. I hear strangers sigh all of the time. I watch road rage and arrogant behavior play out before me. I can feel a person's distress just by looking into their eyes. I live in fear of the pending and the unknown....unable to relax and wander through life numbly. Yet I feel slivers of hope penetrate my broken heart. Opposite emotions rage relentlessly throughout my body.
I have never been so confused. I have never been so at peace with my own mortality. I have never loved so deeply. I have never felt so meaningless.