A heavy dose of State Fair pronto pups and mini donuts were my goals for Friday when I’d originally asked to take the day off work. I’d planned on inviting my young granddaughter to join me. The weather forecast was promising wide smiles on the faces of fair goers.
But my plans changed as did the forecast.
I’d received an email back from a ship captain about a bucket list item I’d been putting off. It’s something I knew I needed to accomplish, but it would also present me with a tough challenge.
Yet I was determined to get it done before my milestone birthday in the fall. So instead of traveling to the fairgrounds I traveled south along the Mississippi River bluffs to a 40 acre lake.
I left early at 5:30 a.m. to leave plenty of time to make my appointment to meet the captain at a marina.
Navigating rolling country hills framed in late summer’s goldenrod and sunflowers, I felt I’d made the right decision. Especially if the thunder could be kept at bay.
And I even held tight a glimmer of hope the light might actually shine through.
To some, I was making this journey alone. Yet actually, I wasn’t. I was traveling with my husband’s ashes, and those of his mother’s to their final resting place.
My husband passed away the day after Christmas. His mother, almost three decades before. I’d never had the chance to meet her, but knew from my husband she was a beautiful woman inside and out.
As I drove, I said a silent prayer for strength as I knew there was some risk in accomplishing this honor without other family or friends at my side.
But scheduling conflicts and weather complications had interferred with earlier attempts. And with cooler weather coming and the captain’s schedule, I knew I had to quickly grab this time slot.
After I’d confirmed back to the captain’s email Monday night, I’d read a blog post by an author I admire, Jon Katz. His words summed up where I am on my cycle of grief and affirmed for me that I’d chosen the right path for my Friday:
“To celebrate life rather than simply mourn death and loss, to seek the light after the dark…Every day, we affirm our own existence, find our strength, and move forward into a place of love and purpose.”
I’ve wanted to find my own strength and move forward for a while.
And along with, it neatly press and fold grief and tough memories to place into drawers to close tight.
So as I walked the long docks yesterday to the slip and the 35 foot sailboat, I was happy to finally meet the captain.
He’s a man of great compassion who has experienced loss in his own life as well.
I knew this extra guidance would be a blessing for my trip.
We sailed on to the perfect spot, near a park on shore my husband always loved. As do I, and my daughter.
After taking care of the task at hand, I placed a couple of yellow roses in the water for my husband and pink ones for his mom.
The captain commented on how the roses seemed to be sailing off together in the gentle breeze.
Suddenly the clouds overhead broke up some, allowing the light to shine through.
And soon all the clouds sailed away, and the captain surprised me by asking that I take the wheel of the boat for a while.
Grabbing the wheel of a sailboat actually’s been another bucket list item for me.
The captain also asked me to smile for a picture. And it turned out the smile came much easier than I expected.
Afterwards, we docked and I stopped at a restaurant my husband and I always loved overlooking the water. I bought a green coffee mug made by a local potter whose home we’d vacationed at years ago.
The green represents renewal and growth for me. And the mug will be there always to remind me of my husband.
I was escorted by eagles soaring above the lake and then along the Mississippi for part of the drive back home.
Where I slept, longer than I have in over a year.
So did my dogs.
All at peace with decisions made, and this special day.
And as to the State Fair and those pronto pups?
They’ll be around next year.
Just like always.