For the days leading up to this, the second anniversary of Jesi’s passing, I have felt a wash of emotions. Sitting in yogic pose on the edge of the pond three days ago, I remember the unthinking comment of a friend some weeks back. “I suppose you’ve moved on.” She said this as we spoke of the opening comments of the Senior Class Captain of Lexington High School’s speech at the graduation ceremony last May. “Someone should be here with us today. One of us is missing from our group.” Moved on? My jaw dropped.
I have wondered about that phrase a hundred times since that afternoon. How does one? How could one … move on? Would one ever really want to? And yet one has to. When the friend said those words to me, I have to admit, I was so taken aback, all I could think to say was… “You have to keep living.”
Today, on the second anniversary of Jesi’s passing, I return to the pond. This time with Alan and Kari and Chris. We are on a mission. I have been frantic to get us there. All three weather apps on my phone predict thunder around 11 am.
We will each scatter some ashes. Alan and Chris and Kari from the shore and I have taped a plastic bag to my belly and slipped a small silver box down the front of my swimsuit. I want to swim into the middle of the pond, to somewhere near the deepest part and let go of them. For days, since this idea came to me I have been thinking how best to make sure I can safely transport them. What tape would be strong enough? Where on my body would they be protected? I wake this morning still pondering this question. It was that day after I finished my stretches and was swimming that I asked Jesi how she wanted us to rememberer her. “What do you want us to do on your anniversary this year Jesi?” Then, almost asleep the idea came to me. Jesi must have wanted it. Sprinkle ashes in the pond. Then she would be always be here swimming with me.
As we arrive at the beach, the light cloud cover swells a deep blue stain before turning a menacing grey. It brings with it a stampede of water which tramples the pond like thunderous hooves, galloping from the cove in the east to the boat ramp in the west. The wind whips the water back towards us so that it is almost impossible to face it. We stand huddled together under a cluster of trees, mesmerized by the force of the wind and the rain.
“I feel like this weather happening now is some sort of a message,” Kari is the first to speak. I nod my agreement, deliberating whether the lightning, now only 12 miles away (shown on one of my phone apps) is going to cause us to abort the planned swimming aspect of our ceremony.
But as fast as the hooves have galloped across the pond they seem to have taken with them the dark stain that covered the world, and the winds ferocious gusts quiet. A second weather app suggests I have 23 minutes until the thunderstorm will arrive.
“Do you think you can get to that point in 23 minutes?” Chris asks.
It seems like a ‘now or never’ situation and I think of the planning that I have put into this, not to mention the desire to carry through on wanting this to happen today, on the second anniversary of Jesi’s passing, with Chris and Kari are both back from college, and the fact that we don’t have time to wait around until the storm passes. They both have to return this afternoon.
“Let’s do it then,” I reply.
I grab by swim cap, ear plugs and nose clip. Alan offers to carry my bag. We plan to meet at the other end of the pond, somewhere short of the cove. They will keep me in sight and if the sky looks ominous will wave their arms to attract my attention. I will keep an eye out for them and stay close to the shore.
I plunge in. The water is surprisingly warm. Because the wind is whipping it up in swirls all around me it is not possible to lie flat along the surface. I feel like a surf life saver, torso angled up with my head pointed forward like the bow of a boat. I come up for a breath and forget to submerge my head and find myself face to face with a wall of water. For a split second I panic, but I do not have time to lose control. I have to keep swimming. All the time I am watching the sky. It seems to be clearing. I start thinking about why I am here, which in my near panic I had almost forgotten. I begin to talk to Jesi. I tell her what I want to do. That I want to her to be in the pond with me always. I thank her for telling me she wanted this too. I make a slight curve so I am heading toward the center of the pond. The sky is clearing. The wind is dropping and the water is calming. I am finding a rhythm in my stroke. I feel rested and peaceful. I remember the plastic bag taped to my belly and the small box which I feel slide under my bathing suit. I continue until I am in the middle of the pond where I stop and tread water. I look across to the shore, just short of the cove and see two figures. I think it is Kari and Chris. Later I learn it is Alan who is with Kari. Chris has walked a little further on.
First I reach into my suit and find the small box. I had not thought how I would do this. I guess I had imagined I would just drop it. But when I pull it out, something very different happens. I turn to face Kari. I hold it up. Then I imagine the sun, which is now glinting through a hole in the clouded sky, will catch the light and reflect it. I wave it back and forth a couple of times as high as I can. I am laughing. I fling it up into the air. And I watch it, as it rises up, stops for a split second and then falls, down through the air and through the surface of the water with a splash. I tread water and watch it fall, feeling exhilarated and finding some sort of joy which I had not anticipated.
When I turn around and look at the sky. The sun has emerged. The sky over the boat ramp is a pale powder blue. White puffs of cloud drift across it. Now I am sure there is something larger than me orchestrating this event.
Next I reach into my swim suit and start tearing at the tape. I wonder why I was so worried about the tape not holding. I feel like I am pulling my skin off as I attempt to pull the plastic bag off. Eventually though, I get it free. Then I pry it open and reach into it. Little by little, as I float on my back kicking, I disperse ashes into the water. I hold them between my fingers and thumbs. I feel their softness even as they are sodden with water. I rub my fingers together after I have let them go. I think of Jesi’s young soft skin. I take some in my left hand. Then some in my right. I feel the same joy. I FEEL THE SAME JOY. Suddenly I remember over a year ago, in Birdwood Gully, Springwood Australia, sprinkling Jesi’s ashes when our family took her back to the place she had visited in her physical body two year before that. I felt joy then too. WHY IS IT THAT THIS BRINGS SUCH JOY, I wonder. But I do not wonder long. I look up at the sky and it is darkening again. This time over the cove where Kari and Chris and Alan are walking. So I quickly disperse the last of the ashes, replace the empty plastic bag under my swimsuit and turn back on my belly and swim over to the shore to join them.