Let us slip away, then, to Corkscrew Swamp, to see what’s stirring in the 13,000 acres of pristine Florida at the Western edge of the Florida Everglades. We’d chosen this visit in May, on the first anniversary of my Mother’s death to spread the last of Mom’s ashes in the swamp she loved and had served as a volunteer guide.
As we walked along the boardwalk, built by volunteers, I looked for the boards that friends and family had purchased in remembrance of my brother’s death. My mother had immersed herself here, healing her broken heart, as much as any mother can after the death of a child, working through her grief by giving back to that which she treasured most: her beloved Florida. She knew her facts and was entertaining and quite popular as a guide.
My husband would ask, as we stopped here and there to admire the view or take a picture or smell a flower, if I wanted to spread my mother’s ashes at that spot, but each time I shook my head “no”. “I’ll know,” I told him. He did not ask me how I would know. He just nodded his head, allowing me my lead, which is just one of the reasons why I love him. This was a difficult task for me. He’d try again, a little later: “This is a pretty spot.” “Yes,” I agreed, “But it’s not the right spot.” I was getting discouraged.
Then my husband started talking to two tour guides who came strolling up. I was irritated. I hadn’t asked permission to spread the ashes and I didn’t want them tagging along if I found the right spot.
Well, wouldn’t you know, it came out that my mother had been a guide here, about ten years earlier. The woman guide asked her name and when I told her, she laughed and said my mother had trained her.
Then she pointed me in the right direction, by asking me a question:
“You know that Phoebe’s ashes are here, right?”
My eyes widened. I’d forgotten about Phoebe, Mom’s fellow Audubon fan and drinking buddy. Phoebe and Mom had spent many hours together bird watching and boating and playing gin rummy, in addition to volunteering at the swamp.
It was at that moment that I knew where Mom should rest. I came clean and told the guide that I had the last of Mom’s ashes and asked if I could spread them where Phoebe’s ashes had been placed. She told me exactly where the spot was and then left us alone to complete our mission. I like to think that Mom and Phoebe are together again, playing cards under a setting sun, the ice tinkling in their glasses as they raise their binoculars to their eyes when they hear the hawk cry out in territorial authority. My faith teaches me that their worldly bodies are no longer needed so it doesn’t matter where they rest. Either way, it was symbolic and it felt right.