The second I saw the Capiz shell wind chime in the store, I thought “mom.” A Capiz shell is a round, nearly flat shell and is thin as glass. In their natural state, they are a shiny white, but these store shells were dyed in beautiful shades of turquoise, purple, pale green and yellow; some of them looked like colors from the sea. I remember she had once owned a white Capiz shell art hanging, and I had a feeling she would like the “rainbow” version too. As a daughter of artists, along with her own interest in art, she would be drawn to the colors.
I instantly bought it and brought it with me on my next visit. Luckily, she had a cork board with thumbtacks on the wall at the end of her bed in her skilled nursing facility and that’s where I put it. She could look straight ahead at the colors. Perhaps they might move a little when a nurse walked by.
It is with a true emptiness that I share my mom has died. Giving her that small gift was the last time I saw her. After that, she was in the hospital and when she returned; they placed her on a new floor. In terms of the wind chime, she may have had the chance to look at it for five days. She was more than likely not aware of it.
It is the strangest feeling. I can barely articulate it. I thought I was preparing two years ago when her dementia accelerated and our conversations changed forever. I thought I understood the path and where it was leading when she lost all mobility. And then I was sure that I was prepared when she had new health challenges right at the end.
But I wasn’t. When the call came from my sister Hailey, who was with her when she died, it’s as if the ground beneath me gave way. That feeling hasn’t changed even minutely two weeks later.
At first, there was much to do with various calls, emails, obituary placements and final resting decisions. I drove across the state to see Hailey and discuss those arrangements. Then my husband moved forward with previously scheduled surgery. We are waiting for the results.
When I returned home, I found myself in a fog, pushing the grocery cart up and down the aisles. I forgot things. I’m still tired. Where I thought the journey was ending, it is actually just beginning. I’ll say it again: it is the strangest feeling.
In a blog post a long time ago, I wrote how mom’s last wish is to be taken by boat out to sea and have her ashes spread there. During that final trip, she would like some Preservation Hall Jazz Band music playing in the background.
Hailey found an incredible resting spot. It is called The Neptune Memorial Reef, and it lies 3.2 miles east of Key Biscayne, Florida, in the Atlantic Ocean. It is a 16-acre artificial reef which also serves as a columbarium. It lies 40 feet below the surface. Family members can have ashes scattered over it or the organization can intern them as part of the reef (which is quite expensive.)
The reef is certified by the Green Burial Council. A marine biologist designed it to build an ecosystem and attract and support certain marine life. It is now teeming with life. As they say on their information page: “creating life, after life.”
The arrangements we chose will include a boat and we will scatter her ashes above the reef. Then, they will dive and place a plaque with her name attached to the reef. We are currently in the middle of this process.
I created this blog to honestly address the problems and solutions I’ve learned along the way about aging parent issues. It seemed like a good idea to write openly about my own experiences and “share notes” with other readers facing similar situations. Eventually, I broadened the site to include other themes, but mom will always be the heart of it. I find comfort in that because there are so many stories about her now which I can hold onto permanently.
I did include a few stories about mother-daughter relationships and how they are not always easy. But it was in the very process of writing those stories where I learned so much. Oscar Wilde once said “with age, comes wisdom.” Somewhere in the journey, I let the differences go and began to embrace the similarities. I am choosing to post this today in honor of what would have been her 92nd birthday. It just feels right.
And just like the colors of the Capiz shells, she will soon be a part of the colors of the sea; and that brings our family true peace. We love you mom.