Yesterday I awoke to the sound of wild roosters crowing. This morning it was back to fire engines, garbage trucks and angry car horns honking. Why do I still live in NYC? I just returned from a trip to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands where I finally traveled to scatter my partner, Ralph’s ashes, 10 months after his passing. I wrote about the journey of grief I have been on in my last post and how it has changed me in unexpected ways. I have learned to trust life more since Ralph’s death (strange, but true) and so I went down to St. Thomas without a plan, knowing that it would happen exactly as it was meant to. And indeed, it did just that.
Ralph was the kind of guy who made friends wherever he went. When we went on vacation, we always left there feeling like we had new friends for life. Lucky for me, St. Thomas was such a place. So there was a birthday party to attend for Teddi, the first person we ever met there (turned out Ralph had known her daughter, Rachel in New York for years-talk about a small world!), and Dorene, who welcomed me into her home and nurtured me all week long. I turned off my cell phone, didn’t check email, and quickly eased into island life. I haven’t slept so well in ages, in spite of the roosters!
Ralph’s ashes sat in a beautiful carved wooden box on Dorene’s kitchen table and the two of us would lovingly pat it when we passed by. We bounced around ideas about what we should do. The days passed quickly and soon it was time. Dorene’s house sits perched on a hill overlooking Magens Bay in the Caribbean. This is the beach that Ralph loved so much and we would always visit when we were in St. Thomas. But it is also a destination for the hundreds of people getting off the cruise ships that dock in the harbor (there were five that day!) Never mind, Dorene had a plan. She picked two huge leaves from her garden and told me to fill them with flowers. I found red Hibiscus, orange Radican orchids and deep pink Desert Rose flowers.
We headed down to Magens with wooden box and flowers in tow. Leave it to the local, Dorene, to know where to go. We followed the shoreline, walking waste-high in the water until we came upon a deserted little beach far from the crowd of tourists. The sunbathers were merely specks in the distance. We were alone but for a couple of boats moored nearby. Dorene said to me “Look at the name of that boat.” It was Amazing Love. I kid you not. And the boat next to it was called Hope. It was there that I released Ralph’s ashes, with a prayer, some tears and so much gratitude for the love he gave me for eight short years. We aptly christened the little beach Ralph’s Beach and I can see it from Dorene’s porch or swim there whenever I visit.
As we floated in the pristine turquoise water, Pelicans and Booby birds were dive bombing for fish all around us. It was wild! I have started paying attention to animals that show up around me and so when I returned home I looked up these two birds to find out their symbolism. Lo and behold, Pelican’s wisdom includes recovery from loss, and ability to float through emotions. In the book Animal Speak, Ted Andrews says that the Pelican represents renewed buoyancy. The Pelican teaches that no matter how difficult life becomes, no matter how much you plunge you can pop to the surface. And the unfairly named Booby bird’s wisdom includes fearlessness and trust. Again, I kid you not. The birds, the boats, the beach, Dorene and me–we were all meant to be there to honor Ralph that day. Trust life and it will amaze you. I promise.
P.S. I forgot to mention that the day I arrived at Dorene’s house there was an enormous rainbow reaching across the sky, and the day we scattered Ralph’s ashes there were dolphins spotted in the harbor–a rare occurrence.