Monday, August 26, 2013

The Long Hike Home

My wonderful sister & me.
Wearing tributes to our dad (the tie),
our brother Mark (the Scout shirt)
and our mom (the hair scarf)
Today we fulfilled my mother's wish of having her and my dad's ashes scattered in the High Sierra. These were the mountains where our family often backpacked; where we kids learned survival skills, the merits of packing light, and an appreciation of nature.

Mom would always stop and examine flowers on these treks--she had a real love of wildflowers, even the small, plain ones that the rest of us easily overlooked.

She also was intrigued by rocks. Any family vacation we took, she came home with rocks. (Her license plate was an abbreviation of Rock Gatherer, which sort of sums things up.)

After Dad died, Mom took to traveling to distant lands and (in keeping with her quirky sense of humor) packed along rocks from one end of the earth to deposit on another. She relished the thought of "confusing archaeologists of the future" with her naughty rock shuffling. Which is why it was fitting that on this trek up the mountain we carried along rocks from her collection, and packets of wildflower seeds.

Dad's ashes have been waiting in a closet for 35 years, Mom's for only a couple of months. They're mixed together now, high in the Sierra, overlooking a stunning mountain range and valley, and the Cliffs of Valhalla (a word my sister tells me is a Norse or Germanic word for heaven). And scattered among our parents' ashes are Mom's rocks and the flower seeds we hiked in, sprinkled with some tears of their daughters.
Time to go home...
Dad's triangle tied with the ribbon from
Mom's wedding bouquet

My sister and I were there with our own families, and after the ashes were scattered, everybody took a turn clanging the metal triangle our dad made to call us home when we were kids. (I can't believe my sister backpacked it all the way up to the scattering site, but she's quite a hiker.)

For all the difficult "last set of switchbacks" my mom and dad coaxed me through over the years, this was a trek steeped in only love and gratitude; a long walk where I spent time appreciating all they did for me, and all they taught me.

It was an honor to make this journey for them.

An honor to take that final hike home.


Jessica said...

What a beautiful way to celebrate your parents' lives and the memories your family created together.

Kylie said...

Such an amazing tribute. What a wonderful place to spread your parents ashes. I am imagining people finding the triangle and not knowing what it stands for, but ringing it. And every hiker that does will unknowingly be paying tribute to your parents.

This is such a wonderful way to spread your parents ashes.


Jessica said...

Wow, I just read a poem that made me think of this post, "To Be Sung on the Water" by Louise Bogan. The first verse (the relevant one) is:

Beautiful, my delight,
Pass, as we pass the wave.
Pass, as the mottled night
Leaves what it cannot save,
Scattering dark and bright.

Unknown said...

That story was a blessing to read..

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Love the poem, Jessica. Thank you :-)

And thank you Kylie and Laurie for the comments.


Unknown said...

What a great way to honor your parents! Not only did you take them on that final journey to a place the whole family loved but making sure that they were still together was incredibly heartwarming. And sounding the triangle was a fitting end to the day. Thank you for sharing this great tribute. -Maye @ Metro East Cremation