She stood on the beach with the tall grass blowing in the warm, summer breeze. No movement, no looking up and down the dunes. She would come on Sundays and look out at the water of Lake Michigan.
The first time she came, she knocked on Rosie’s door and timidly asked if she could park her car for a few minutes because she needed to walk over the dunes and all the beach parking was full. She held a small cardboard box, and looked at Rosie with so much sadness in her eyes that Rosie quickly granted her permission to park.
True to her word, she returned within 15 minutes, got in her car and drove off. Rosie didn’t give it much thought, until the young lady came the next week, and the next and the next after that. Each time she politely knocked on the door of the big red house, and each time Rosie let her park there.
After over a month of this early Sunday morning ritual, Rosie’s curiosity overcame her inclination to stay out of this girls business as it got to the point that she wanted to know what was going on with this stranger who made her weekly trip to the beach. Quietly, Rosie followed “The Parker”, as she became known at Rosie’s house, to the sandy path leading from Lake Shore Drive up over the dunes at Miller Beach. As Rosie neared the top of the dune, she could see the top of the girls head, and with each step, she could see more and more of the silouette of “The Parker”, standing still…staring out at the waves.
Suddenly, the girl spun around and was almost immediately standing face to face with Rosie. Rosie was somewhat embarrassed, as was the girl. Stuttering, Rosie said, “I’m sorry to seem like I am spying on you. Its just that every Sunday you stop at the house, park your car, and disappear over the ridge and like clockwork, 15 minutes later you return, get in your car and drive away. If its not too nosey of me, would you mind telling me why you come here over and over again?”
Feeling obligated to respond since Rosie always gave her permission to park every week, the girl sighed and said, “I’ll tell you. Follow me.” They both went over the ridge of the dune and the girl stood silently for what seemed like minutes, but was closer to 30 seconds, before she again spoke. “When I first came to your house in hopes that you would let me park, I was very upset. My mother had just died, and she made me promise that I would cremate her and put her ashes in Lake Michigan. Mom loved the beach, and swimming, the sea gulls and even the smell of the water made her happy. ” The girl hesitated, wiped away a tear, and continued.
“That first time I stopped, I did what Mom wanted, right there.” The young lady pointed to a spot directly in front of her and Rosie. “When I left, I felt so lonely and so alone and filled with mixed emotions. I was so very sad. I did what Mom wanted, but as I drove away, all I could think of when I opened the box with her ashes and let them slide out of the the box was ‘oh my God, my mother is gone, and I have no place to go visit her or take a flower.’ It hurt, and I still hurt….all the time.”
Rosie put her arms around the girl, who wept. Rosie was a mother and could not imagine how this poor girl must feel, just tossing her mother’s ashes into the water like that. They stood, arm in arm, for a few minutes, and quietly split apart and both turned to the lake and watched as wave after wave broke on the shore. Finally, Rosie turned to the girl and told her to wait there; that Rosie would be right back. Within minutes, Rosie found herself standing once again next to this poor woman-child. “Honey, I brought you this jar. It might help if you were to scoop up some of the water and some of the sand right where you let your mother go. Take the jar with you, and put it someplace safe at your home. I am sure there are times besides Sunday mornings that you feel a need to talk to your mother. Let this jar become a symbol of your loving her enough to follow her wishes. Maybe you will feel that you brought just a little of your mom back home to be with you.”
At first, there was a strange look in the young lady’s eyes, but within seconds a spark of love or wonder or who knows what lit up her eyes. She thanked Rosie, and ran down to the water’s edge. Rosie made it back to her house, and sat in her breezeway, looking toward the grassy knoll. A few minutes later, the girl slowly made her way back to her car and gently placed the jar inside on the floor. As she opened the driver’s side door, she glanced toward the house and her eyes met Rosie’s eyes. No words were spoken as none were needed. They both smiled, nodded, and the loving daughter who carried out her mothers wishes to be set free in the waters of Lake Michigan drove away.
In telling this story, Rosie mentioned that she never saw the young lady again, but she knew that she would be alright. Mother’s just know these things.
This story stuck with me. It happened before I was even in this business. It always seemed like a strange practice to me to blow someone’s ashes to the wind, or drop them in the ocean or scatter them from a plane. Here was a person of flesh and blood and bone who played such an important role in so many lives and when they die, to me at least, it almost seemed like they were just being thrown away. Cremation…fine. But I think it offers an awful lot of satisfaction and peace of mind to be able to place them in a permanent resting place where you can visit when the urge hits.
Since entering the cemetery and funeral business so many years ago, my feelings have been proven over and over again as people express their regrets for not putting mom or day or son or daughter in a place of honor…a place to put a flower.
Calumet Park Cemetery has many, many options to choose from for those who need a permanent place to put the cremains of a loved one. In fact, it was recently decided by the Board of Directors that Calumet Park Cemetery would make one grave space available for free to all cremation families in which two cremains may be placed. Call or stop in, or look through many of the posts previously put on our Facebook to see what might be right for you. Visit our website for more information about cremation at www.calumetparkcemetery.com or call 219-769-8803.