Yesterday marked a day of peace, solitude and closure for my family; after almost 6 months, we finally spread my husband’s ashes and laid him to rest.
Before I describe this beautiful day I want to share with you what led to the decision about where we decided to lay him to rest.
We were a blended family. My husband and I had met when we were 12, fell in love and dated in high school. After high school, we went our separate ways in life and didn’t reunite until 2009. For 7 years we worked on blending our families and we were fortunate enough to have four wonderful children who clicked right away and formed a very special bond with one another.
Divorce and blending families are two of the hardest challenges I’ve ever faced in life. As a parent, you are always making sure that your children are happy, and you feel a tremendous amount of guilt for putting your children into a situation that they never wanted, but are basically forced into because of your decisions. You wish they could fully understand the complexity of relationships and how important the good ones are in life in order to make you the best person and best parent you can possibly be. Even though you made the decision to be with someone else other than their mom or dad, it’s a difficult process to help them understand that you didn’t divorce them as well. As they become older you hope and pray that the continued love and support you provide for them results in successful relationships that they will have as they become adults. You feel like a failure at times, but you also become aware of how important your child’s needs are during the entire process.
I know it was difficult at times for my children and his children to accept the other as an extension of their own parents, but we always made it a point to respect and accept that while they were growing up. I never wanted to take the place of their mother, nor did my husband ever want to take the place of my boys’ father. That never stopped us from loving and caring for each other’s children as much as our own.
A few weeks after my husband passed, my focus was on making sure all four children were okay emotionally. What I found overwhelming was how they dealt with their grief in different ways. The night my husband passed one of my sons wanted to stay with his dad because he was fearful that something was going to happen to his own father. My other son never showed his emotion and sobbed when I had to break the terrible news to him. And then there were my stepchildren. I knew what it was like to lose a father because I lost mine when I was 23. But I can’t imagine the pain and thoughts that go through a child’s mind when they lose a parent at 14 and 17. The thought of what they must have been going through made my heart ache in a way that I haven’t felt since my father passed.
I wanted to make this grieving process as comforting as possible for my stepchildren. My focus was geared towards them because I felt that even though my boys lost an incredible man and role model in their lives, their biological father was still alive and I was grateful for that. I wanted to lessen the pain so I left it up to them where they wanted their father’s ashes spread. I made sure they knew that there wasn’t a time limit on when they had to decide. In hindsight it was a huge decision for a child to make, and I admire their grace and strength through it all and I have no doubt their father is beaming with pride in heaven.
6 months later they decided they wanted him laid to rest at a duck club that their mother’s uncle owned. It was a place that my husband hadn’t duck hunted at for close to 7 years (due to the divorce) but it was a place that my stepson would be duck hunting at for the rest of his life. I knew how much my husband loved his children and I never had any reservations about spreading his ashes at a place that didn’t belong to us. You see, it wasn’t about he and I. As an adult, I have memories that will last me a lifetime with him. As his children, they have 14 and 17 years of memories and knowing that their father’s remains would be a part of their family for their lifetime brought me so much comfort in knowing they would have peace in their little hearts forever.
I left it up to them who they wanted at the spreading of the ashes last night. They wanted to keep it very intimate and we decided it would only be the four children, myself, their mother, my husband’s best friend and his son (who is my husband’s godson).
We put on our waders and hip boots and trudged out to the duck blind. His godson read a beautiful poem filled with tears. After the poem was read my stepson played Luke Bryan’s, “Huntin’, Fishin’, & Lovin’ Everyday” as my husband’s best friend walked around the blind and spread his ashes under one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen. It was perfect. In fact, it was more than perfect. Through the tears I saw expressions on all of the children’s faces that exemplified relief, peace, love and comfort. It never ceases to amaze me how much happiness comes over me when I see a child feel protected, loved and at peace. I knew at that moment my husband was home. And that was more than good enough for me.
Ironically last night marked exactly 7 years to the date when he and I took our first vacation to Maui as adults. I remember sitting on the beach with him at sunset and commenting on how incredible Maui sunsets can make you feel. We talked about how wonderful it would be one day if we could take all four children to Maui. We fulfilled our dream and enjoyed not one, but two trips to the beautiful island and shared many sunsets with them that will be etched in my heart forever. Below is a family picture from 2013 (the day after he proposed to me under a Maui sunset):
I focused on gratitude last night because at that moment, I was grateful for sunsets. To me they are a symbol that no matter what happens during the day, a good sunset is proof that there is beauty in a new tomorrow. I pray that there will always be new tomorrows for our children if and when they face a difficult day. If there was a magic pill to take their heartache away I would give it to them in a second. If I could take all of their pain and feel it myself then I would. What I can promise is that I will always be here for all four of them and will always keep their father’s and stepfather’s memory alive in all of our hearts forever.