19-21 & 25-27 August
On the morning of 27 August, mom’s surviving boyfriend and I released her ashes into the Rio Grande river from the Alameda Bridge north of Albuquerque.
I had a lot of help, every single step of the way, from the wonderful women of the New Mexico Women’s Chorus, through friends from Ceremony, to family members including especially my brother. Mom herself guided me through the places she wanted to visit one last time, and made sure I checked in on Tommy.
Mom wanted to be released from the air, but it is against FAA regulations to drop anything over the side of a hot air balloon. So I just took her up in my backpack. We were framed by the rising sun to the east and the setting moon to the west. Skimming down low over the Rio Grande, I saw a turtle swimming fast ahead of the current! My co-riders were great. Vicki was taking care of ‘Mom’ before she knew what I was carrying in my backpack. Her sister Joann was having the time of her life. Roger and I had a nice conversation about doing the work of connecting (people to other people, within themselves, to larger contexts), Jean was being the adventurous one of her trio of friends/family, and Yong was enjoying tourism while her husband worked. Karen and I both managed to draw the hardest labor tasks involved with initial inflation and final packing. Joy might someday send me a photo of some of that!
I drove mom along her favorite road, Rio Grande Boulevard through Los Ranchos de Albuquerque. She loved cruising leisurely along at the 25 mph speed limit, gazing at flowers and fields and landmarks near and far.
Eventually we would turn along Alameda, cross the Rio Grande, and turn to wind up through Corrales. I found a spot that captured the view of the Sandias that she loved so much. There, I tended the objects I would use to send her finally on her way.
I settled on roses because peonies are out of season. (Mom’s mother, Rosaline, used to take peonies on family outings to her parents’ graves on Memorial Day.) The lavender was broken by the hot air balloon upon landing; the bit of sage was a gift from Ceremony. A male goldfinch had greeted me in Caroline’s yard upon return from Ceremony, and the necklace was a perfect find at Mama’s Minerals. About 9:30 the next morning, I warned Tommy that what we were doing wasn’t usual. “Okay,” he said, and accompanied me onto the bridge.
Lavender first, followed by a scoop of ashes. Alternating between a rose and ashes, I spoke a few words about each person’s relationship with Mom – highlighting when it was at its best or what seems notable about it to me. Rich’s rose first, then Dad’s. Next came John’s, then mom’s siblings, Jane and Ed. I included a rose for Bob Cockrum, one of mom’s childhood friends who is still in touch, and also for “Uncle” Sam. I included the wee bit of his cremains that Lee had given me: if their two spirits ever mix, the results will be awesome! Tommy had opted to keep his rose when I presented it to him the day before. Mine was last. We watched it float away through the shadow of the new bridge and out of sight.