My brother Lud passed away last August. His last request was to have his ashes scattered on his favorite beach. Solana Beach in San Diego. That is why my sister Karie and I are here this weekend.
To carry out his last dying wish.
I flew from Nashville and Karie – and Lud – flew from Cleveland. Seems that Lud has some trouble at TSA.
To quote my sister,
“So I separated Lud, between my carry on and my checked bag – in case my suit case got lost. And then, I go through the security line. I walk through with no beeping but then I hear the guy yell, ‘Bag check! Ma’am is this your bag? Do you have any sharp objects in it?’ ‘No. Just my brother.’ The guy looked at me like I was crazy and of course, I start bawling.
‘It’s my brother, it’s my brother, he’s in the Tupperware container.’
(When I questioned my sister on the Tupperware container she said, “It wasn’t used. I bought him a new one.”)
I had prepared myself for the emotions that I would feel this weekend while carrying out my brother’s request.
But I forgot about the other ashes.
The ones from my own life, that I would have to encounter in this beautiful city.
You see, Jim and I lived here from 1988-1994. Fresh out of college, we both got jobs and started our careers here. (My brother Larry and his family lived here as well, so it was an easy decision.) We met life-long friends and enjoyed living in paradise. San Diego is expensive and we were young, working for a ministry that paid close to nothing and barely making ends meet. But the beach was free! So, every day, after getting off work, we would head to Solano Beach. About six months after we got here, my brother Lud relocated here as well and would join us on our daily beach trips. Lud fell in love with the ocean, which is why he wants us to illegally scatter him upon these shores. (Aside note… I am trying very hard to not have this go badly. I’m trying to not to picture the wind and the tears and Lud ending up all over me and my sister instead of in the ocean. Or…the very possible ending of us being arrested. Stay tuned.)
Yesterday I drove to the beach. But at every turn and every corner, I would see a flash back of my life here. Our life. What used to be. That was the gas station where we had that horrible fight one time. And that was the restaurant where we first talked about going into counseling. Oh, and that was the time we…. And on and on and on.
The only thing to do when you find yourself in a sad and self-pity spiral is to call a friend.
“Those were hard years, I cried. I’m so sad.” But instead of wallowing with me in my sorry she said,
“Lm – I will pray that God shows you the beauty in the ashes.
Instead of focusing on that things that have died, why not think about the good that was and the good that remains?” This, I know, is such an easy and better way to live. And yet I forget all the time.
So yesterday I laid on a beach towel and stared at the waves, like I did so many years ago. Same beach. Same sand. And even the same beach towel. (It’s a great one.) As I let the tears fall, I realized the importance of looking at the whole picture and not just one scene. The truth is, Jim and I had some amazing, wonderful times here. We were young and motivated. We laughed and loved and planned for our future. We enjoyed life as best we could. The tears of sorrow turned into tears of gratitude for all the good times.
Relationships sometimes die. People die. Jobs change. Hearts break.
But today I choose to look at the beauty in what remains. The beauty in the ashes.
P.s…. My brother Lud could have never known that his last request would provide a huge opportunity for healing and growth for me. Circle of life. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Pray for us, and for the absence of a wind.