Years before my mother passed away, we had the most uncomfortable conversation, at least to me, about what she wanted to do when she passes away. “Joe, I want to be cremated and you and your brother and sister can take my ashes to some place that makes you happy.”
Ugh, I thought to myself. My mother is invincible and she will never die so I am not worried about any of this, at all. Life has a funny way of throwing you curveballs or as they say, life happens. She passed almost eleven years to the day after we had that talk and a few weeks later, I received her ashes.
The next day, my daughter and I drove to Myrtle Beach to spread some of her ashes where her best friend growing up, her brother, my uncle, had died in a plane crash coming home from training with the Tennessee Air National Guard. Mom never visited there because she said it would be too much for her, so now that they were reunited, it made perfect sense.
It was, as she said, some place that made me happy. Since then, I have talked to friends and strangers who have told me the amazing places they have taken and spread ashes and every time, the person telling me just lights up like a lamp.
Sneaking into Neyland Stadium and doing it, on the pier in Panama City Beach, in the backyard of a house where his mom grew up, at Graceland in Memphis because grandma was the biggest Elvis fan of all time, to Bourbon street because her dad grew up in New Orleans and spreading some of his ashes there would make her happy.
I love to hear these stories and the genesis behind every single one of them. It was most therapeutic for me, to be with my girl and do it together at a place my mother wanted to go but never could do it.
Then, it doesn’t just stop with people. My cat passed away in 2008 and he got sick and in a week, he was gone. I was devastated. Not even kidding. I had this dude for fifteen years and he had been with me through a few ups and many downs and was always there. I had him created and took some of his ashes to the first place I found him in Hermitage. I knocked on the door and told the lady living there what I was about to do and was it OK, and she started crying. She never said yes or no so I just went and did it.
I went to a place that made me happy. No tears but thankful for the journey that little dude and I had.
As someone asked, “How will I know what that happy place is if they never tell me?” Trust me, you will know. You will absolutely know.