Thank you so very much for your kind reviews last chapter! You know I love hearing from you. This chapter is on the shorter side but I think it needed to stand alone. Thanks Lolo84 for pre-reading and Capricorn75 for beta-ing. I tend to tweak long after I should stop so mistakes are on me.
One of the inspirations in my life is a man named Eckhart Tolle. After he suffered through years of depression, he underwent an inner transformation. He found what he calls his bliss, oddly enough, through wandering without purpose or direction. Eckhart is now a spiritual author, German-born and Canadian resident. I don't hold that against him. One of the things he wrote which spoke to me was this:
The test of being is a very simple question: Do I feel lighter and more joyful?
After my confrontation with Jessica Stanley, I walked out of the restaurant feeling lighter, and though I wouldn't say I was joyful I was definitely happier. Stronger. I was coming out of the world of fear and sadness and gravitating toward joyful. I felt like I'd gotten some closure. And I felt good- really, really good.
We went to another restaurant and ate before setting out with what we came to Forks to do – release my mom's ashes. Back at the hotel, we changed into our hiking boots and got the girls into their backpack carriers. Though they weren't thrilled with being strapped in initially, soon enough they both fell asleep as we walked the somber paces of the trail at LaPush.
Carlisle held the box that housed the ashes and though it was morbid, we joked about him tripping and unceremoniously dropping them on the ground. Good luck was on our side and we made it to the top of the cliffs, the ashes unscathed. When we stepped out into the clearing, I felt like I was home.
Growing up in Forks, I spent a lot of time by the water. My classmates probably have similar memories of the ocean, but their recollections also entailed laughs by a roaring bonfire. Not me. I was high up on the bluffs, looking down with a longing to be a part of their fun. But more often than that, I would sit alone on the edge of the cliff, long legs dangling down, and simply stare out at the horizon.
The vastness of the Pacific never made me feel small or insignificant. Instead, I felt like I finally had a connection to something living. Each wave that crashed ashore felt like a shared breath; the ebb and flow giving me life. The ocean made me realize there was still beauty in the world despite the ugliness I experienced on a daily basis.
Often I'd lose all my senses; lose track of time as I was drawn deeper and deeper into the spell of the waves. There aren't words adequate enough for me to articulate the power of the ocean over my body, mind and soul. It was majestic and its healing powers were unrelenting and unbound.
On bad days, I'd tell her stories of my heartache. Then I'd watch in awe as the waves would pull the pain away from my chest, whispering to my heart that it would be okay. Some day.
Today was that day.
The salty mist caressed my face and made me smile, though it did a number on my already chaotic hair. And the smell. God, there's nothing like the sea air. I wanted to take it deep into my lungs and have it permeate me from the inside out.
As I stood on the bluffs, preparing to let my mother rest forevermore, I was once again mesmerized by the waves. I looked over at my family who flanked my sides and saw they, too, were affected by the alluring waves. I realized no one stands looking out at the vastness unaffected. No one is immune to its lust or impervious to her enchantment.
I knew, without a doubt, this was where my mother should rest for she was everything the ocean was to me. Elizabeth Cullen was my happiness, my breath of fresh air; my escape from reality.
"Let's do this," I quietly said to my brother and he nodded. Carlisle opened the box and removed the plastic bag. If you've never seen cremated remains before, they don't resemble ashes at all. They look more like coarse beach sand; sandy white to gray in color and actually, sort of pretty.
"So, uh, how do we do this? Do you have a spoon or something?" I asked, unsure of the process.
Carlisle shrugged. "I dunno. I guess we just dump them out."
"We can't just unceremoniously dump them out. That's rude. And what if the wind kicks up? We'd get a mouthful of mom."
Carlisle shook his head at me. "Just take a handful and release them slowly, I guess."
I made a face. "We probably should have Googled this before we left home."
Esme and Bella respectfully took a step back as my brother and I both took a handful and prepared to do it.
"Wait! Is this legal? I mean it's not considered toxic waste or anything, is it?"
"Really, Edward?" My brother impatiently rolled his eyes at me.
"It's a valid question, Car. What if this is illegal?"
"Do you seriously think someone is going to find a tiny spec of mom and use DNA to trace it back to us? What are they going to do charge us with illegally disposing of a dead body? Or would it be disposing of a toxic material?"
When he said it like that, okay, my question sounded stupid. I waved for Carlisle to go first. He held his hand out over the edge, palm down and released her.
"Goodbye, mom. Rest in peace." He stood there for a moment before he stepped back and urged me forward.
Like him, I stood at the edge, but held my hand palm up, fingers closed, holding onto the tiny pieces of my mom for a little while longer. For the moment, I protected her from the wind like she protected me for so many years.
"Mom, I can't thank you enough for all you ever did for me. I admired you, looked up to you, and respected you like no other. More than anything, I love you, God so much. Thank you for teaching me about love. You were my angel on earth and now in heaven."
Slowly, I opened my fingers until my palm was flat. For a moment, the ashes stayed in my hand, almost like Mom didn't want to leave me, a thought that made me smile. A small gust of wind picked up a few pebbles and they lifted off my hand into the air. More followed, tentative at first and then in quick succession. I watched each and every piece of my mom being carried away until my hand was empty. Closing my eyes, I imagined each tiny spec of her free in the wind. And I felt at peace.
Carlisle draped his arm around my shoulders and I opened my eyes and smiled at him. Together we released the rest of the ashes into the wind.
When we were done, Esme looped her arm through her husband's, and Bella through mine, resting her head on my shoulder. Though I couldn't see the ashes blowing in the wind, I felt the goodness of my mom around me. Her breath was the wind at my ear, her voice the grains of salt which flecked in my hair. Her support was both Esme and Carlisle. More importantly, her love was manifested in Bella standing strong by my side.
"Birdie!" Audrey loudly exclaimed as she pointed. I hadn't even known she was awake she'd been so quiet. The ocean had probably pulled the twins into a trance as well.
We all looked where she pointed. An eagle swooped down from one of the treetops and with expansive wings spread wide, soared before us. Equally as majestic as the ocean below, the bird was a symbol of mom's beauty and the freedom we'd just given her. He stayed for but a minute but long enough to bring tears to my eyes. As he flew out of site, I said my final goodbye and 'I love you', my words swallowed up by the sound of the crashing waves but I know Mom heard me.
We walked back down the trail and I was proud of myself for facing another demon – letting go of my mom for good. No, not for good- just for the time being, because I knew I'd see her again one day.
One more chapter to come of their time in Forks (and my favorite one!) See you on Monday.
Thank you for reading and (hopefully) reviewing.
PS For those of you asking about my pregnancy, yes, I still am and it feels like I have been forever! My due date has changed to early April now (because every pregnant woman wants to be pregnant for an extra few weeks) but as of tomorrow I'm off on maternity leave for a year! I can't wait. Thank you for asking about me xo