every day, not just
on Fathers Day
Dad used to say that it was my job to flit around trying all sorts of things during my first time on this planet. I realized later that I was like a butterfly sampling many flowers and only became beautiful because of what my father taught me about life. Now in my 40s, with him gone almost a year, I know Dad's lessons will continue to surface at unexpected times. I am ready.
George, my father, died at 4:33 a.m. on Sept. 14. His body, dressed in a favorite bright red shirt, was transported two hours later from his Honolulu apartment. Between then and the time his life left his body, a warmth enveloped the space that surrounded his survivors. The sensation was surreal. I had never been with someone at their time of death, but I wasn't afraid. I was lucky. I had been blessed to have shared my daddy's last breath.
He was cremated on the 17th. I picked him up on the 18th. Feeling proud to hold his bones in my arms, I had a picture taken at the cemetery. After picking up a large bag of ruby red and white rose petals, and three flower leis, I headed to the beach at the east end of Waikiki. My friends Ray and Elise met me. Ray brought two kayaks and a water camera. Elise brought her love and support.
The morning was as oddly serene as the day Dad died. The tradewinds that blew gently were scented with plumeria, and the vivid blue sky held clouds above us like puffs of downy cotton. Kapiolani Park, nearby, seemed greener than ever as the sprinklers dusted the grass with fresh water.
We set up the kayaks, making sure George was safe in the hull with the flowers and pita bread I brought along. George loved pita! We carried the boats to the water's edge next to the Natatorium. Elise and I paddled out together, following Ray to a perfect spot.
A south swell caused the ocean to roll beneath our kayaks. The splash off our paddles was warm and welcoming in the heat of the morning sun. Elise suggested a clear turquoise blue spot in the distance. When we arrived, I jumped in to be sure it was the right place. The water was crystal clear, and the sandy bottom with scattered rocks could be seen about 50 feet below. Waikiki appeared far away.
I crawled back into the boat facing Elise, opened the hull and prepared the flowers and Dad's cremains. I set out the leis, then asked Elise for a key so I could open Dad's box, bearing a label reading "Dr. George E. Dillinger." Releasing the cover, I lifted out Dad's body, bones, ash, remains, or what looked to me like sacred cream-colored sand. It was all in a clear plastic bag weighing about 10 pounds, with a white twist tie to keep it closed.
Elise and I put some rose petals in the water. I threw more in the air. They caught the breeze and fell around us. We each said something special about Dad and life as we set our leis in the ocean to bless him. Then I picked up the bag of remains and gently let the ashes of my father sift through my fingers into the sea. They billowed gracefully through the water, traveling slowly yet purposefully through the moving current. My father was set free.
UPON REFLECTION, the floating cremains almost looked like a genie coming out of a bottle. A supernatural sort of essence filtering back into the universe.
I emptied the bag, then filled it with water and poured it out again, making sure there wasn't a single grain remaining. Ray asked me if I was going in, and without hesitation I slipped off the boat and swam with my father. I opened my eyes under the surface of the water and saw his dust all around me. For a moment I wondered if the grains would scratch my eyes, but tears filled them instead.
My heart was charged with pain and joy as I stroked through the water with him. In the disappearing cloud I saw a few flashing lights ahead of me. Maybe it was just my tears fooling me with this new sight. I lifted my head and looked back. The water was clear of the flowers and cloud of dust; everything was gone. I turned around and floated on my back for a minute.
A moment later, Ray called out with a smile on his face, "Hey, look, there's a honu!
A Hawaiian sea turtle, light blond and pale green, had surfaced. He looked over his left shoulder at the three of us, then dived down toward the west. We cried with delight, as this visitor was a final blessing and a message that our work was complete. Afterward, we ate the pita, leaving a trail in the ocean behind us as we paddled back to shore.
Every day since, I have thought of Dad. I don't need Father's Day to remind me that without his words and lessons, my life would certainly never be as rich as it is today.
June Dillinger is a Tahitian Noni Juice distributor.
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