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Take me to the sea: A poem for our mothers

This is a week of bittersweet milestones, dates on which we may celebrate and grieve simultaneously. My mother, Carol, would have turned 67 this week. My mother-in-law, Kathleen, would have turned 75 just a few days later. We took one Mom's ashes to the sea 19 years ago; we'll take one Mom's ashes to the sea in a few weeks. We'll celebrate their legacies of love, family, resilience, and laughter; but we will always grieve the empty spaces that won't fill in. They've both gone too soon.

Happy asked me recently why we take the remains of our loved ones to the ocean when they die. He and I were floating on boogie boards in the North Atlantic at the time, near a sheltered beach called Kettle Cove, a serene and lovely Maine-poastcard beach. My first response was, "Because that's what they wanted." 

He was quiet, plaintive, mulling it over. "But why?" 

I thought of my mother, my grandmother and grandfather, so many childhood memories that floated on water. I thought of my mother-in-law, who reminded me any time I felt nerves, "Go to my ocean, Tori, you'll feel better. My ocean will never harm you." 

When I looked at my son's sweet face, carefree and buoyed on the sea, the true significance struck: Water surrounds us. Water sustains us. Water makes us. Water is life. 

And water is eternal. The water around us now is the water that's been around us for ages. It cycles. Forever and ever, sea to sky to rain to earth and back again. 

This refrain sounded in my mind, and I repeated it for Happy: "All the water in the world is all the water in the world." We smiled thinking of our mothers and grandmothers keeping us afloat at that very moment, soon to be watching us from a cloud high above and washing back to earth to feed the apple trees...then do it all over again. 

We take them to the sea to be free, my love, as I hope you'll take me someday. First we cry. Then we drift. We sip water and regain our strength; we nurture one another. We grow. We love. Over and over again.

Take me to the sea: A poem for our mothers

Take me to the sea, my child,
Release me to the deep
Where I will be
Forever free.
Floating pulsing surging love
In the cycle of water
And life without end.

All the water in the world is all the water in the world.
I will float on the tides,
Evaporate into the clouds
Then soar above you on a breeze
Finally free.

You’ll see me blinking
Past sun and moon
Shimmer of stars
Until I rain down
Gentle cooling soaking love
To wash away your pain
To feed the earth and float on again.

All the water in the world is all the water in the world.
So I am all around you now,
You will know peace, my child,
Now I am the sea, the sea is me.
And I am free.


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