The Long Goodbye

There wasn’t much breeze. They tell me most of the dust fell like sand. But it was a beautiful ceremony, nonetheless.

She and her daughter visited the beach. She’s up in age—walking through sand can be an ordeal. She carried a Foldger’s coffee can. The old metal kind people keep roofing nails in.

They walked toward the Gulf of Mexico and removed the lid. They scattered brownish powder into the water.

There wasn’t much breeze. They tell me most of the dust fell like sand. But it was a beautiful ceremony, nonetheless.

“My husband and I kinda grew up coming here,” said the old woman. “Before all the big condos and high-rises. His family had a place down that’a way.”

She was nineteen when she met him. After a few dates with the skinny boy, he invited her along on an annual family beach vacation.

The family stayed in a big camp-house cabin. They went fishing. They sat on swings, stayed up late, talked, watched the moon above the bay.

He was almost three years younger than her. He called her an old lady, it infuriated her.

They made a nice family. Two girls, they adopted a son. They took walks after supper. They played cards. They traveled.

He inherited his family’s service station. He could fix anything with wheels. It was a lifelong obsession, tinkering beneath hoods. They weren’t rich, but in many ways they were.

A drunk driver killed him.

It was a twenty-year-old girl with friends in her car. Nobody knows what happened exactly. The theory is: he was doing sixty-five and the girl was doing ninety. She tried to pass him. He switched lanes to let her over. She was going too fast. Four people died.

It happened almost sixteen years ago, her wounds have turned into scars.

Ever since his funeral, he’s been sitting on her closet shelf, in a tin can.

I asked why she chose the container.

“Ain’t no reason,” she said. “I just remember him saying, ‘Don’t spend no money on a fancy urn.’ He was so practical.”

After his memorial service, the funeral home presented her the ashes in a plastic bag.

Sixty-some-odd years, tucked into a glorified Ziploc.

Not long thereafter, they took a trip to the beach, where she was supposed to empty the bag into the Gulf. But she couldn’t.

“Wasn’t ready to be alone yet,” she said. “We had a life planned. We were gonna buy an RV and see everything. Saying goodbye was harder than I thought.”

I guess so.

But a lot has changed since then. She has changed.

There’s a man at her church. They have been spending time together. They go to dinner, they go to movies, he even took her out of town for her birthday.

“It’s not much of a romance,” she explains. “But he’s good to me.”

When they scattered the contents of the coffee can, she tells me she didn’t cry like she expected. She’s done enough sobbing over the years.

Instead, she talked to a ghost, like she often does.

“This is a big world,” she told the ghost. “I can’t believe we were lucky enough to find each other. I love you. Always will.”

Then, she threw the tin can away.

11 comments

  1. Connie - July 8, 2017 1:55 pm

    Bless her heart. I wish her joy.

    Reply
  2. Al - July 8, 2017 2:49 pm

    It’s all right. I think I just cried enough for both of them.

    Reply
  3. Al - July 8, 2017 2:49 pm

    Dang it, Sean.

    Reply
  4. Betsy Brown - July 8, 2017 3:37 pm

    My tears may be happy tears or sad tears, but there are almost always tears because your posts are so beautiful. Kind of like church hymns sung from the heart. They make me cry as well.

    Reply
  5. Helen McClure - July 8, 2017 4:00 pm

    So lovely. Thank you.

    Reply
  6. Dolores Fort - July 8, 2017 5:25 pm

    I can relate to this lovely woman. My husband is in a plastic bag in a plastic box over my washing machine waiting for me to join him. When our ashes are joined together, our children will dispose of them at the same time. When we married, we said we would never part and we had both wanted to go at the same time because we didn’t want to be separated. After over 50 years together, God had other plans. I am now waiting for the time when we will be reunited, but I am living each day the way I believe he would want me to, continuing the activities he supported and continuing to love him. I miss him very much, but I am living each day knowing that we will be together again in God’s time.
    Thank you, Sean, for such a beautiful story that touched me very deeply.

    Reply
    • Tommie Jordan - July 8, 2017 9:45 pm

      Your stories always make me cry. I keep saying I am going to stop reading them, but can’t help myself. My farmer man of 20 years left me in ’91, but it still feels like yesterday. It still hurts because he was only 62. Such a young age. Here I am at 75, still crying. Don’t know how to stop

      Reply
  7. Eleanor Goodgame - July 9, 2017 2:10 am

    This touched my heart. Today is my 45th wedding anniversary but I “celebrate” alone. My husband has been gone 3 1/2 years & I’m still not used to the loneliness. I read this while looking thru my wedding album & tho it is bittersweet for me, it makes me feel somehow feel hopeful for the 1st time in a long time. Thank you Sean for the anniversary gift.

    Reply
  8. Donna Holifield - July 9, 2017 3:35 am

    Beautiful !
    That’s all …. beautiful!

    Reply
  9. Jack Quanstrum - July 9, 2017 3:47 am

    Incredible story! It touched me deeper than any story you have written in the last two months. Thank you Sean, for sharing. I wish had your writing ability so I could effectively share in words what I am feeling. But some feelings maybe best experienced in one’s soul and spirit instead of writing or speaking them. Thank you for hooking me up to this incredible journey!

    Reply
  10. Marisa Franca @ All Our Way - July 9, 2017 2:59 pm

    Doggone, Sean!! You did it again!! I can’t see to type for the tears in my eyes. There are times when I get scared of losing my Honey. We’ve been married almost 48 years. I can’t imagine a life without him. He’s my love, he’s my best friend. And like the old lady, we’ve spent time holding hands and staring at the Gulf.

    Reply

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