I finally made the step and took Stephen’s Ashes to Maine as I promised I would do before 9 years had passed after my husband’s death. This is the story:
I made the trip with the help of two friends and on Monday April 1st, (3 days shy of the deadline) Brenda, Anita and I set out to find Stephens final resting place that he and I had talked about. His final resting place located at his boyhood family cottage of which he had not been allowed to return to because of a family falling out years ago. I promised I would not wait longer than 9 years to get him there because that was the amount of time it took him to get his mother’s ashes to the same location after her battle with Cancer.
We drove into town in the afternoon about 4 PM. It was raining a slow drizzle and even with the research and photos I had we could not locate the cottage.
We spotted an old man walking up the rainy road that ran along the shore so we stopped to talk with him. He said his name was John. He had piercing blue eyes, and a scruffy face, he was wearing a red sweatshirt, jeans and even had a bit of snot on the end of his nose.
I asked if he could help us find the Ludwig cabin and I blurted out to him why we were there. He talked with us for a while and he seemed a bit protective but concerned for our well-being in earnest. He asked us where we were from and did we have somewhere to sleep. Most Inns and hotels were not open yet for the season, and I think he was concerned that. we might want to sleep in the van we were traveling in. We told him we had planned to stay at the one hotel in town and we’d be OK. I asked him with a complete tourist tone if he was in fact a lobster man. He chuckled coyly and told us no. He said he liked to stay off the grid, and that he had lived there alone for years. He talked gruffly but gently and let us know that he had spread his wife’s ashes in the front of his cabin years ago and gave us the advice to do it quickly because it was not looked upon well to spread ashes in Maine. I told him that I intended to fulfill my promise and I can’t imagine it not being OK. He smiled and said OK and he might be able to make some calls to find out the exact location of the cottage.
He had me write down my phone number and said he would do a bit of research and call later and let us know what he found out. We thanked him and drove on. Brenda was convinced she could find it and thought we should check the little street he had told us where he thought the place might be. We drove around for a little while more and it was starting to slowly get darker. I had remembered Stephen told me the cottage was near or on a Van Horne road because an ex-boyfriend of mine and his cabin location shared the same name and that idea always made me a little sick and had stuck somewhere in my mind.
We drove slowly along the road looking for clues. We drove up to an old signpost with names on it, and scanned the list looking at the names as they popped out at me.
The signpost that led the way
Ludwig, Stephens’s family name was midway down the post, I felt a wave of relief come across me. Another name on the post was Adams. This was the name of one of his neighbors he had told me about. I got even more emotional as we drove down the little back road to find the cabin we were looking for. It was just as it looked in the photos. I could almost feel Stephen’s excitement boil in my veins at the sight of it. The place my husband had spent so many happy summers and had spent the happiest times of his youth. All of the stories came flooding out of my mind and into pictures. I could see the tall pine that so many relatives had taken photos in front of. The windows that faced the ocean matched the photos and views of islands in the distance. I took in the view to the open ocean from high on the cliff above the water and to the left.
I peeked into his bedroom that had two small beds inside and fit the description and story he had told me of sitting on his little bed and at 10 years old hearing his grandmother shout “DICKS DEAD” when they got the dreaded call from Stephen’s mother who had called from vacation in Mexico to report the news when he was 10 years old.
All the memories flooded in and I could feel him around me. I wanted to go inside so badly, but I had not opted to contact his relatives that I had never known.
It was still raining just more than lightly on and off, and the clouds hung over the evening sky. I was struggling a bit with the feelings I was having about letting go and actually parting with Stephen’s remains so I took some time to walk around alone and be present in the beloved land of my husband. I stood on the porch and was crying on and off, letting myself get lost in the horizon. In my mind I felt that if I were to scatter his ashes that I would have nothing of him to take back to my life with me. Now that I had finally connected with and understood the beauty of his happy place I would leave him there and have nothing physical to take with me. I hung around for a little while, taking it all in. I finally walked back up to the car, and told the girls I needed more time and wanted to walk around a bit more.
I returned to the porch where I had been standing and I saw on the handrail a stone which had NOT been there before. I walked over picked it up and held it in my hand. This simple stone gave me the strength I needed. I thought to myself that I could take that home with me and I felt that it was now time to let him rest. I knew it was time to set him free or maybe it was to set myself free from the pain of his loss. I turned and ran back up to the car and announced, “Its time!” I opened the trunk, pried open the grey bag from its plastic box. I kind of hid it under my jacket and headed for the water’s edge. I climbed carefully down the rocks to the water’s edge while Anita and Brenda took photos and video.
I tore open the bag, reached in with my bare hands and began flinging the ashes into the air one handful at a time. I started to sob as I let go, one handful at a time. I was thinking back about our life and his death and all of the shock, denial and anger; one handful at a time again and again. I was looking for acceptance. Was I there, was this it? As I was repeating the motion over and over the sun popped out of the cloud layer near the horizon and began to set in the distance.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xW5V22LS5a4 (Click for Video))
Into the air (and into my face), the ashes were flying and scattering into the wind I got about halfway done, and I took the last half wound up my best throw and tossed the bag into the ocean. It made it into the water and a white ring blossomed from the bag and spread out and mixed with the earth. I stood there for a bit clapping my ghost white hands and ruffling my clothes to clear off the prints I was leaving as I tried to get all the ashes off of me. I stopped and stood still, looked around and said “I’ll always love you, and thanked him for being such a great husband. After a bit I turned and made my way back up the rocks to the top of the bluffs.
Me on my way back up the rocky bluff
I wanted to have my photo taken with the sun setting in the background, and Anita and Brenda continued to take photos of me standing under the pine, posing in front of the setting sun and I cried while they did what I asked. I was overwhelmed with a sense of relief and a crazy sense of lightness mixed in with the satisfaction of fulfilling Stephens’s last wish.
We finished taking the photos as the sun dipped below the horizon and the girls headed back to the car. I took a moment on the porch to say my final goodbyes, and my cell phone rang. I missed the call while fumbling with my pockets, so I called the unfamiliar number back. After about 10 rings I hear a hello, it was John King on the line. He called to let me know that he had found the cottage’s location. I told him happily that I had found it too and I had just finished scattering his ashes, and thanked him profusely for his guidance and help. He said he was very happy that we had completed our task and warned us to quickly make our way out of there because there had been robberies in the area and people are usually not up here this time of year. I told him how grateful I was that he had been so helpful and he said in future to simply help another by paying it forward, I told him I would and told him God bless you.
We got back in the car and as we were driving away three huge deer with very white tales including a buck and two females, hopped across our path and danced into the woods leaping and bounding. I thought to myself…he’s free.
I was reviewing the photos on the road out of there and I noticed the shots on my iPhone all seemed to have all my head cut out of them. I showed them to Brenda but told her it did not matter. I will never forget the scene. We still had Anita’s digital so it was OK, not to worry. I posted two of the shots up to Facebook to let my family know that Stephens’s final wishes had been fulfilled and I titled the post; Just this side of heaven.
The next day, my brother called me and told me I HAD to look at the photos I had posted. There was something in the photo over my left shoulder. The something is my husband. He is hovering in the sunlight over my left shoulder, my angel smiling at me. You don’t know Stephen’s face, but I swear on my life that the face in the photo is of Stephen….it’s him….
IT IS HIM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Just this side of Heaven
I can’t tell you how my emotions swirl about it, and it seems so surreal. But I do feel completely moved, comforted, loved, relieved, happy, amazed, thankful, grateful, freaked out, and just a tad insane that I have been given this gift. I am so grateful to God for the chance to see and feel so strongly that when we die we are OK, that there IS something else after this life, and that it is very real.
Rest in Peace my Stephen, I am so grateful you came into my life and I was able to be a part of yours. I will never forget you. I will do my best to live on and live my life to its fullest without you on this earth. You gave me so much love, taught me so many things and made me feel so loved by you. I loved our talks, for hours on end, and I will cherish every moment I was your wife. You were the first man to really love me the way I wanted to be loved. I will also do my best to not worry so much about you know… everything. Thank you for being my husband and my best friend.
Until we meet again in the next place.