Scattering ashes in Southern California
Last week I was in Santa Barbara. Calif., visiting my best friend Jeanne. We have been the best
of friends since seventh grade. I happened to see her in the hall on one of the first days of school and figured she was going to be popular so I asked if she wanted to have a sleepover. She said, “Sure,” and we have been joined at the hip ever since. We even attended the same art school.
This was a perfect trip in many ways. We hiked, played golf (me, poorly), went to the pool, talked nonstop and visited museums and art galleries. I was excited that my favorite illustrator David Wiesner had a show up at the SB Art Museum. Timing is everything.
Another bit of timing worked out for this trip as well. I received my husband Barry’s ashes right before I left for this trip. Barry loved Southern California. He always wanted to move there, but the timing was never right with work and our children. So we began vacationing there as much as possible. California was our first big trip after we married. It was then that I learned how much Barry loved to bake in the hot California sunshine. He would lay out in the sun until his Irish skin was burnt to a crisp and he was beet red. I always tried to get him to sit in the shade because I was sure he would die of skin cancer. But sadly, it was FTD that killed him. The last three years of his life were spent indoors, never feeling the sunshine he loved so much.
Now with Barry’s ashes in my possession, I asked my friend Jeanne if she would mind going to Dana Point, Calif., to scatter some of them. It is about a three-hour drive from Santa Barbara and Jeanne agreed to the plan. I felt Barry would like being there, plus his sister lives nearby so she would have a place to visit him. I also called my old pal Diane from Bloomington, Minn., who now lives in California, to join us. Barry’s sister Cathy and her husband Dave were also free that day. So it was settled and Jeanne and I headed south. We checked into the same resort where Barry, I and the kids used to stay. He loved it there and was thrilled to be able to bring us all there on vacation many times.
I had been quite timid about seeing, handling and scattering Barry’s ashes. I had been conflicted about letting them go, but now I would not be alone. The night before we scattered the ashes, I met Cathy and Dave for dinner. She had made a reservation at a restaurant at the harbor in Dana Point. I arrived early so I asked if there was a reservation for McCool (Cathy had kept her maiden name). The hostess said, “Yes I have a McCool reservation. Is it John?” I was speechless because Barry’s actual first name is John. I wondered if Cathy had made it in his name for some reason. I asked the hostess if there was another McCool party dining that night, but she said no and went about her business. When Cathy arrived, she noted that she had only given the name McCool. I never asked the hostess why she said John — I didn’t want to know. I figured that Barry just really wanted to join us that evening.
The next day was perfect, sunny and warm. Barry would have loved it. We scattered the ashes in three places. First, high above the ocean at a tiny gazebo where Barry walked his sister down the aisle at her wedding. We played music and shared memories. Slowly, it became easier to let him go. The other two places for scattering were in the ocean. The tide was down so we could walk out into the water. I knew eventually that the tide would come in and off Barry would go. Later after lunch, everyone went their separate ways. I decided to lay by the pool and roast just like Barry had loved to do. I got up early the next morning, returned to all three places and said my goodbyes once again.
It feels good to know that I did the right thing in leaving some of the ashes there. Barry is forever in sunny California, a place he always wanted to be. The timing was finally right.