Colleen's Journey

A Million Little Pieces

So, here we are in Hawaii. We have a few hours left on the island and the week has gone way too fast. It has been a whirlwind to say the least.
When we first landed here, my sisters and I were nervous about how we would feel and what we would experience this week. The last couple months have been the most painful of our lives and the days haven’t gotten any easier.
Our hearts and lives feel empty.
We miss our mom more each day and are sick with thoughts of how long its been since we last saw her. We came to Hawaii to find peace and I can honestly say our fears quickly dissipated once we arrived at the hotel. A calmness washed over us and we knew mom was here. We found what we were looking for.

We didn’t have to imagine “signs” of her presence, but rather we experienced them. She has been everywhere. From a bird flying alongside our boat to footprints in a picture of us girls, she has been here with us.
We have learned a lot about life and people in the last few months. Billy and I took our kids on a helicopter ride to see the island, we lounged by the pool drinking cocktails and took the most amazing Zodiac boat ride to the Na Pali coast, BUT the best part of this week was just being here with my sisters, their husbands, the kids, and our Uncle Jeff, Aunt Kaytie and friends Kathy and Erin.
The reason we came back to Hawaii was because we left our mom’s better days here. Many of our “lasts” were here. It was only fitting that we came back to spread her ashes.

I spent the last couple weeks planning the ceremony and found an amazing officiant, Lauren King, and a Hawaiian guitar player/conch blower named Makepa to perform. Everything seemed to have fallen into place until a couple days ago when we checked the weather. The weather called for MAJOR storms on Saturday!! The day of the ceremony!!
The storm was so bad that the hotel told us we couldn’t go outside because Civil Defense called to warn of really bad lightening, wind, and flash flooding. It was BAD. Apparently Kauai doesn’t get lightening very often, so its a serious occurrence.
We were distraught.
We had one day to have this ceremony because Danielle, Dan, Kathy and Erin were catching the red-eye back to Phoenix that night, so we were determined to make it happen. Lauren and Makepa said they would be on stand-by all day in case there was a break in the weather, so we sat in our hotel room and watched the wind, rain and lightening from the windows. We felt mom talking to us. The weather was very similar to the crazy storm we experienced in Phoenix the day of her memorial.
Around 11:45 am, the lightening seemed to stop and the rain slowed to a drizzle. We decided to make our move to the beach. The weather seemed fitting and the skies were grey. She was crying with us.
Lauren and Makepa got in the car right away and drove to meet us at Shipwreck Bay. We were all very quiet on our walk out to the beach – rare for this fun group. I think we were all in shock that we were about to spread our mom’s ashes. The realness of our situation was setting in. Billy had “my mom” in his pocket and guarded her carefully.
Once Lauren and Makepa arrived, we put leis over each other’s necks and walked out to the water for the ceremony. We held each other tightly as Lauren spoke beautifully about the 4 elements of the earth and attributed each to our mom. Makepa sang “You are my Sunshine,” and put extra emphasis on the “you make me happy when skies are grey.” As those words came from his mouth, the sun came from behind the clouds.
Hi mom!!!

We threw rose petals into the ocean as a sign of letting go and peace. Before throwing them out into the water, we placed them on our hearts and offered blessings. It was then time to scatter our mom’s ashes. I literally thought I was going to vomit as I opened her urn. Last time I saw her, she was a body and now she feels like sand. It was torturous for me to see her like that – a million little pieces. I kissed her one last time and felt her on my lips. I said a couple words to my sisters about how it was time to start letting go, but that we will always love her and miss her.

I don’t actually believe I can let her go, but it sounds good, right? We scattered her ash over the rocks and water and then threw our leis in. Makepa blew his conch shell. It was one of the saddest, yet beautiful, moments in my life. We know she was watching and was proud, but it was really starting to dawn on me that I will never see her again.

How is that possible? I used to see her almost every day in Phoenix and when we lived back east, she would fly out every 2 weeks to see us. She was a central figure in not just my life, but in Billy’s and the kids. How can she just be sand now? I have no answers, but I believe it because I saw it. It’s devastating, it sucks, and its unfair, but the day was beautiful. These are things that will stay with me forever.

So, back to the ceremony.
After we scattered our mom’s ash, we lit a fire in a fire pit to burn notes we wrote her – Dia de los Muertos style. My mom believed in the Mexican celebration that if you burned notes to your passed loved ones, they would receive them. We pray this is true. While her receiving our notes will never take the place of one last touch, kiss, hug, laugh or breath, it is something and I have to hang on to those “somethings.”
Once we finished with the note burning, our ceremony was complete. We took a few last pictures and it was time to go.

We left Shipwreck Bay and were walking back to the hotel when the rain started pouring down. Our mom gave us a break for her ceremony. How amazing is that?

I have to say the whole experience was even more emotional than we expected, but we were all so relieved to have been given a bit of closure.

It was beautiful, but as I said before, the best part was the company and all the love we felt for our mom. It helps my sisters and I to know we are not alone and we are so thankful to those people who haven’t left our sides. You know who you are and we love you.

Mom, so long. We love you. We miss you. We ache for you, but are trying to let you go.