On Saturday 7 May 2016, I stood on the cold sands of the Inkwell Beach and said farewell to my brother, Stephen. That was the day of his final memorial. It was a chilly and foggy morning, the wind harsh and biting and we all gathered by the waters to cast his ashes upon the Vineyard Sound.
My brother, Gregory, read a psalm. Linda’s family read a brief speech, each reading a portion. Even my daughter, Alexa, managed to choke out a few words.
I declined to read part of the letter I sent Stephen, back before he passed away, but declined. I knew I'd never read even part of it without breaking down. Instead, I recited a short, prepared statement; I actually got through it without dissolving into tears. Well, until the end,
"What can I say about Steve that would encapsulate a lifetime in a few words? He was more than a brother; he was a friend. He could be a bit of a know-it-all. What am I saying, a bit? I digress. More importantly, he didn't yell, he didn't belittle, he always tried to help me be a better man and he never caused a single tear, until now."
Then it was time. Using some seashells, we scooped his ashes up and spread them upon the rolling waves. I had one final tribute to pay: a tiny bottle of Jose Cuervo Gold Tequila, it was his favourite. I was going to toss the bottle in the water, but my Niece Heidi chided me about throwing plastic in the sea. I opened the bottle and poured it out.
It was over. We moved inside for a pleasant meal, a slide show of old pictures and a game of Mexican Train Dominos. This was a very appropriate conclusion to the day.
Sunday evening, I returned to the beach for a final goodbye. We were leaving in the morning and I had one final task to perform. I collected up some of the sand and put it in the little tequila bottle, an idea Heidi suggested. I then stood there, the fading sunlight matching my darkening soul. The weather was calmer; the breeze gentler and blowing offshore, the tide low and the waves gentle. I stood there consumed by emptiness and asked Steve to grant me a moment of peace.
Nothing came to me.
I sighed and gazed upon the waters of the Sound. As the waves rolled in, I noticed a lack of uniformity. Some waves were big. Some waves moved quickly. Each took its turn and crashed upon the shore.
I saw that the reach of the wave, how far it spread itself across the sands was not a result of its size. Often the biggest waves completely fizzled out. Waves that were slow and steady stretched the farthest.
Still, each wave had its turn, made its mark and then came the next one. The marks, erased by wind or water, never truly disappeared; the waves remained. Their waters merely changed, they returned to the sea.
That was when I found peace, albeit mixed with the warm tears of grief running down my face. I turned and walked away. Stephen, my brother, had spread himself across those he knew and loved; he'd left his mark and moved on.
Now, so could I. Thank you, my brother, until we meet again.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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