On a chilly day in November, my Dad wrote the cutest letter. He sat at the island in the kitchen for about an hour, with a few pieces of scrap paper and a pen. He always liked to write his thoughts, so I didn’t think much of it as he sat there humming and hawing; that is, until he asked my brother and I to come over. He took both of us in his arms and read the letter gently to us.
“Please scatter my ashes in Smithers BC, my favourite place. In the Bulkley river, by the bridge. Love, Jesus Perez”
Filled with tears, the three of us cemented one of the most beautiful moments of our lives with a comforting hug.
Fast forward to August. My brother and I surprised my aunt with a flight up from Mexico, and make the 12 hour journey Kamloops to Smithers. We were finally able to show my aunt a relaxed, beautiful, and natural British Columbia. She saw a bear, moose, and beaver. She was able to meet with my Dad’s best friends. The whole experience was perfect, and the people – the people were perfect too.
On the first night we shared memories and heard stories about our Dad. He was like their brother. Their son. Their best friend. “No wonder he loved this place,” my brother said to me at one point. On the second day, we played a round of 18 holes on my Dad’s favourite course (he went back every year to play the Northern Open tournament), and after golf, his friends planned a pot luck to see us and share memories. Then the moment came, and in a caravan of vehicles, everyone joined us for a Bulkley sunset.
I cried so hard.
But it was perfect. We scattered a few ashes at the golf course, but at the river each friend got into the warm river with my brother and I, and scattered ashes with us. As we passed the urn, I felt so grateful to be surrounded by people who truly loved my Dad. People who knew the very core of him, and who felt the same pain we did. I was further grateful that the weather was hot, the sunset pink and orange, and the river water toasty warm around our legs.
The next morning we stopped at the river one more time, with no one there but the three of us. My aunt sat on her own on the rocky beach, staring at the nature when suddenly three deer came out of the woods across the river. She believes it was her brother telling her he was at peace.
My brother and I tossed rocks and soaked in the presence of that place. We don’t have a grave site to visit, but we do have this place. The three of us then hit three golf balls into the river in his honour, and reluctantly started the long journey home.
We kept the sunset urn and before I departed Kamloops for the very last time, we dropped the urn in the Thompson river and watched it sink away slowly in the sunset (don’t worry, it’s biodegradable).
Another chapter, another way to say goodbye. Will the sadness every go away?