· Florida Keys
I sat on the back steps of the brightly painted beach house that we shared ownership with Cait's parents. We'd all come down together for the final time before things took a turn for the worst last fall. Cait insisted that we do Thanksgiving at the place on Islamorada and talked not only my in laws, but her siblings and their families into making the trek down as well. We all crammed into our house, a group of twenty spread amongst three bedrooms, various couches and chaises.
It was simultaneously the most entertaining and exasperating trip I'd ever taken, but I'd forever hold the memories of the gleam of light in Cait's eyes as we all sat around the table for Thanksgiving. It was her favorite holiday, if you asked her way she would have said that it was a time to put proper attention toward the bounty of blessings that God blesses us with daily. From where I sat, however, it was more about the food. She couldn't pack away as much as she used to, but that didn't stop her from sampling a teeny bit from every serving platter that hit the table.
Later that night, after we'd settled in for the night, Cait whispered, "Thank you for making this happen, baby. I love you for always making my dreams come true."
"Always, baby," I replied back instantly.
With that memory sweeping in, I stood from the porch and followed the winding path behind our house past the pool and onto the beach. I walked slowly toward where the surf crashed against the beach, each step filling me with a deeper sense of dread. But a promise was a promise, so I trudged forward, wading into the water until it was about calf high. The small, ornately carved wooden box that I held in my hands increased in weight the moment the first trickle of water glanced against my skin.
When we heard about the diagnosis, Cait refused to do the Pollyanna sunshine thing, she was very pragmatic about her prognosis. She never gave up fighting, but when it completely exhausted her, she was very adamant with how she wanted her arrangements handled. No big funeral service at a church we barely attended. Instead she wanted a small memorial service, immediate family only in the backyard of our home. She wanted no maudlin reminiscence, so she even planned the memorial, down to the songs she wanted played and in what order. The last song of the night was to be "Bring Me Home" by Sade, a hauntingly beautiful composition that mirrored how she wished to leave this earth.
"Absolutely no burial, cremation only," she was insistent, "And scatter my ashes behind the Islamorada house. I want to return to the waters that birthed me." So here I stood, ashes in hand to return her to the ocean like she demanded.
"Well baby, this is it," I said, opening the latch on the box, which was lined in deep purple velvet, Cait's favorite color, "Your final dream, coming true."