October 1st is Bernice’s birthday. It had long been the family’s intention to honor her wishes to have her ashes scattered from her favorite mountain, the mountain she climbed five days a week with her hiking buddy, Dominica. However, her death in February left us too distraught to carry out her wishes at the time. It was decided that we would return on her birthday, hoping to be in a better place with our grief. During the intervening months we stayed in touch, reminding each other to stay or in some cases get in shape for our trek up the mountain.
So precisely at 7:00 am Saturday morning, October 1st eleven of us hit the rocky slope leading to the steep, windy road to the top of her beloved mountain. I know there were eleven of us because it fell to me to provide ball caps for everyone and turns out it took all eleven of my caps to cover every head. I carried Bernice’s ashes in my Camelback pack; our spirits were high, and there was a nice breeze that stayed with us all the way. No casualties but one attack of back spasms causing a daughter and her friend to opt for a shady spot where they could await the news of our success.
When we arrived at our appointed spot on the backside of the mountain we called them on their cell phones and all eleven of us sang happy birthday to the lady who had made so many of our birthdays happy over the years. I released most of the ashes in front of the group, and after a time made my way round to the exact spot I had been visualizing for my private moment with Bernice. As I released the remainder of the ashes I tried to say goodbye but I just couldn’t do it. I would like to think we shared a long moment together. I remarked that there was a perfect breeze to assist her in passing from this place she found dearest of all.
I had time to cry before Bernice’s son-in-law and his son joined me. I appreciated talking about Bernice for a while longer. I’m glad we did it this way. Most of the family would leave the following day. Luckily for me one grandson and his girlfriend would be staying on for a few days. We shopped and took in the Desert Botanical Gardens on Monday and Tuesday we took a bus trip to the Grand Canyon. After we said goodbye at the airport on Wednesday, I had the worst case of empty nest syndrome possible.
As I write this I’m looking out on the patio where Bernice always had breakfast, read her paper and enjoyed her morning sun. She’s not there today and yesterday’s coffee cup, the one she always picked up in my bathroom every morning after she read the poem I left her before I went off to work, is still in place this morning. Even so, I’m not ruling out a visitation every now and then.