Minute particles of silvery, gray ash floated in the cool evening breeze and trailed in the dimming sunlight. They called out softly to me. They bid me a hesitant farewell and continued to float on the breeze just out of my reach. Part of her final wishes had been fulfilled; I left part of her in a place she had come to love. Tears blurred my eyes and I felt very alone once again as, finally, reluctantly, vestiges of my life seemingly drifted away into the wake left by the ship. The lights of Juneau blinked in the distance and the ship's wake rushed away into the darkness signaling that everything must move on. Lights behind me shone from the decks above where couples laughed and closely held to each other as they too watched the distant lights fade. Peering into the darkening mist, I felt the emptiness of her touch next to me. I reached out to wrap my arm around her even as I knew that she was gone.
No, she wasn't gone. She was there whenever I wanted. I could see her in the smiles, gestures, and innate mannerisms of my children. I could recall my laughter at the goofy little dance she performed each time a favorite song with an upbeat tempo played on the radio. Neither of us danced well, but who cared? In her classroom the young students laughed gleefully as she danced and sang out of tune with them. She made us all laugh and there were many times of much happiness.
Memories of happy times of discovery and the joy of sharing our life filled my thoughts and peacefulness overcame me. I felt reassured that all would be fine and that love keeps memories alive. Shared laughter over mutual pleasures and private jokes brought a small smile to my face as they floated to the surface of my thoughts and washed over the sadness that had seized me a moment ago. The joys that we shared with our children through the years added to the happy memories and reminded me that there were still memories to be made. Each of our children possessed traits of their mother that would keep her memory alive.
The scenery on this voyage was as magnificent as our earlier visit to Alaska. Yes, I missed her spontaneous laughter and childlike pleasure in our wondrous visual discoveries along the way as we cruised by the wilderness shoreline overflowing with surprises every mile. She had delighted in pointing out the harbor seals basking in the warming sunlight and the bald eagles that soared in abundance above the fir trees and icy waters. The familiar seals and eagles as well as the other wildlife were still there, but they seemed just a little less playful, a little quieter this trip. Upon departing the picturesque town of Ketchikan and cruising along the wild coastline, I glimpsed a group of harbor seals lazily enjoying the energizing sunlight among the grey rocks scattered along the shore. Surrounded by her pups and perched atop a large rock, a large mother seal's melancholic bark seemed to say, "I know your pain. Keep your family around you". Graceful bald eagles glided and soared above the cold waves. Perhaps they too sensed and shared my loss. The overwhelming beauty of this wilderness caused me to realize that there will always be beauty in this world. Happiness would return and cheerful memories would fill the emptiness.
I know that there will always be an ache inside that will occasionally surface unexpectedly. Love lost does that. But just as surely that ache will be followed by a smile as I recall the happiness and good times that filled our life together. Our family would keep those memories alive and love would continue to bind us together. Love remembered does that.