Posted on August 26, 2010


For Tia L. Brink

* * *

They gathered on the bluffs above Ocean Beach to say their final goodbyes to Louise. It was late afternoon, and the cool marine fog was rolling in. Seal Rock was only a dim outline in the surf below.

She reveled in the cool fog, looking at her loved ones standing there: her son, Michael, her two granddaughters, Annie and Lucy, her gentleman friend, Gene, her oldest friend, Linda, and her sister, Jackie. They couldn’t see her.

Michael carried the simple brass urn that held Louise’s ashes. He stood at the edge of the bluff and turned to face them. He took the lid off the urn.

“Well,” he said, “Mom would have gotten a chuckle at us being here, getting ready to scatter her ashes without a permit. But since this was her favorite place, nothing else would suffice. I think the fog is thick enough now for us to get away with it.”

Everyone smiled and nodded. They knew her well. She did get a kick out of it.

Michael took a handful of ashes. He looked down at them and took a deep breath.

“Mom, you left us too soon. You raised me on your own after Dad died, and I know I was a challenge. Thanks for always believing in me. I’ll miss you every day.”

He turned and tossed his handful of ashes into the fog. Annie, his eldest daughter, was next. She scooped her hand into the urn.

“Gran, you were the best. Remember those contests Lucy and I used to have to see who could make you laugh first, or longest, or hardest? And I’m so going to miss your cooking. Sweet dreams, Gran.” She let the ashes go.

Now it was Lucy’s turn. She was the youngest one there, only sixteen.

“You were kind of strict as we got older,” she said over her handful of ashes. “But you were cool, too. Old people don’t usually like the Internet as much as you did. You had way more online friends than I do. They’re not here, but you should see how sad they all are that you’re gone.” She let her lump of ashes go.

They were all quiet for a few moments. Louise hung back at the edge of them, gazing into the fog. She thought of all those never-met online friends, and it seemed the air was full of them, like little winking lights hovering around the small group. They stretched off into the mist farther than she could see.

Gene had his handful of ashes and stood at the edge of the bluff.

“It’s true, you did touch many more people than you know,” he said. “But all I know is there’s no one else quite like you. You were generous and full of life. I don’t know what I’ll do without you. Love you, Lou.”

She wanted to reach out to him, but the time for that was past. She was beginning to understand how little the living could see. She knew Gene would be all right. They all would. Life would go on and eventually sweep them along in its current, but they couldn’t face that just yet.

Linda stepped up next. She’d brought a garden trowel to get her share of the ashes, because she was too squeamish to touch them with her bare hands. Louise felt a laugh bubbling inside herself at this. Linda had always been a little prissy.

“We were girls together,” Linda said. “We learned about boys together, had our kids together. You were my rock during the divorce. We both got older, but you got better. And I’m better for knowing you, Lou. You were my best friend. Rest well, my girl.”

Linda flung the ashes off the trowel, but she held it a little too high. Some of the ashes blew back onto her coat, and she squealed in alarm. Everyone laughed as she frantically brushed them off, getting ash on her hands in spite of herself.

Last came Jackie. She held her handful of Louise’s ashes out over the edge of the bluff, and let the wind blow them away as she spoke.

“You were younger than me. I should have been the first to go. I guess your heart was so big and so full it just gave out. Some of the color’s gone out of the world with you. I’ll miss you, Sis.”

I love you all, too, she said, but they didn’t hear her. I won’t be far away.

Michael tipped the urn over the edge of the bluff and let the rest of her ashes fall into the fog. It carried them wide, scattering them over the bluff, into the tall cypress trees. Louise would be a part of this place from now on.

“Goodbye, Mom,” he said. The rest of them murmured their farewells, too, and she saw tears welling in their eyes. In time that sadness would ebb away, but her memory would remain in each of them, bright as a candle flame.

She was satisfied. They would all have good lives, though not always easy ones. She had done her best by each of them, and was proud of each of them. She had done what she came to do.

She turned and looked at her beloved fog, and saw the dim orange glow of the setting sun through it. She felt herself expand, and smiled. The current of the swirling fog lifted her up, and she released all her love, the life she had lived, who she was, into it.

The fog curled intimately around the people standing on the bluff, and flowed inland to fold the entire city in its tidal embrace.