It's a painful fact of life that those we love will eventually leave us. Whether it be a friend or a family member or an animal companion. Loss is inevitable and we are never ready to say goodbye when it does. We accept their death, have the funeral, and take care of their bodies to the best of our abilities, but that doesn't mean we're ready to move on. Some people can love someone they love and not be able to move on for years. I was one such person.
The loss of my grandparents hit me hard. My grandfather (Grampy) died in 2005 and my grandmother (Nan) followed three years later. They were a massive part of my life as a boy. Ever since I was a toddler, I would spend the weekends at my grandparents' house. It was an old homey two story house nestled in a bunch of trees on a street in Fredericton called Golf Club Road (fitting, considering that Grampy loved Golf). Nan was the stereotypical grandmother; doting, loving, and more than happy to spoil me wich toys, comic books, and pie. Grampy was a large and quiet man, We didn’t talk very much but I know he loved me as much as Nan did. He would spend most of his time sitting in his chair by the window, or sitting outside for a few puffs on his pipe.
When I discovered my passion for gaming, Nan embraced it and would always give me games for Christmas or my birthday or whenever she could. Grampy was indifferent, he looked at the TV screen one day as I was playing Kirby 64 and said “You got blobs chasing blobs”. Every weekend I spent with them was a delight, from the time I could barely walk all the way to High school. I have nothing but fond memories of them. When they died, their bodies were cremated and their ashes divided into thirds. One third was buried in Fredericton, one was buried in a small town on the eastern coast called Bouctouche, where my grandparents would spend their summers. My parents kept the third portion in separate pill bottles at home to be spread at a later date.
That date arrived a few years after Nan died. It was decided that my grandparents' ashes would be spread in the waters of the estuary not far from the house they lived in during the summer. Every summer, there would be a big family reunion We gathered on the shore. There was myself, my parents, and my extended family. On our side of the estuary, there was nothing but trees and sandstone. On the other side, there was the town. The sun was setting over the water. It was one of those sunsets that sets the sky on fire with shades of red, orange, and purple while bathing the ground in golden hues. The water was calm and still, creating a mirror image of that same sunset. Of course, as with all of the truly breathtaking sites I've seen, I didn't have my camera.
I waded out into the water with my grandparents' ashes in my pocket. The water was crystal clear as I watched my step to avoid any critters or sharp rocks. As I waded further out, I thought back to my Mom telling me about the laundromat that was once down the road from the house. It used to dump chemicals into the water, which decimated the ecosystem. Now, however, that damage had long since been undone, as the estuary was teeming with life. I came to a stop as a reasonably sized crab scuttled out from the sea grass and stopped in front of me. It's beady little eyes were fixed on me. It raised it's pincers at me when I tried to take a step, so I decided to stop there. As I slowly took the pill bottle out of my pocket, I could hear singing from the shoreline accompanied by the sound of golf balls being whacked into the water. The singing came from Megan, the wife of my cousin John, who also sang at Nan's funeral. My cousin Beth was the one hitting golf balls, an homage to the time when she and Grampy would play golf together.
I started with Grampy's ashes, one small handful after another. Each handful was dedicated to a moment I had with my grandparents. The birthdays, the Christmas mornings, and everything in between. I thought about everything that had happened since they departed. Graduating high school, enrolling in university, becoming a black belt, and so on. I remember wishing that they had been around to see those things happen. I watched the ashes slowly fall onto the water's surface, wondering solemnly to myself if one of Beth's golf balls was going to hit me.
As I dumped the last of Grampy's ashes and moved on to Nan's, the sun was drifting lower into the horizon. The oranges and reds were just starting to give way to purples and blues. The sun itself had become a brilliant reddish-orange colour. I took the last of Nan's ashes into my hand and held on tightly. Her ashes flowed through my fingers as I wound up and threw them as hard as I could. I'm not sure why I did this, the ashes didn't fly very far. It might have been symbolic of something but I can't remember what. I put the empty pill bottles into my pocket and washed my hands in the salty water. I looked up at the sky, closed my eyes, and took a deep breath.
Saying that made me pause. I realized that I had never actually said goodbye to either of my grandparents. Up until that point, it hurt to think about them. I was not ready for them to go when they did, and so I tried not to think about them or talk about them. I couldn't even look at pictures of them. But at that point, as I stood knee deep in the waters of the estuary, in a place that held so much meaning for Nan and Grampy, I felt...better. I'm not going to say that I felt something lift off me or that I could feel them smiling at me from on high, because I didn't. Instead I just felt better. I could have stood there and basked in the setting sun forever but a flounder came and bury itself into the mud under my foot, causing me to jump and almost fall into the water. I turned and started wading back toward my family.
I will always remember this as the day I said my final goodbyes to my grandparents. Had I refused to spread the ashes myself, this moment might not have had the effect on me that it had. I'll never forget my grandparents and I still miss them. But their absence in my life does not hurt anymore. That's the thing about the past. It can hurt, but we have to make piece with it before we can move on with our lives.