I’ve been thinking for the past few days about this post. Should I write it? Would it weird people out? Most of you know that my dad passed away this summer. It’s been difficult dealing with losing him, but one thing that has helped has been just talking about him. I love telling people about my dad. The first post I wrote about my dad really helped me a lot with the healing process.
So I went on a journey over the weekend with my sister…and my dad (I’ll explain). I knew I was going to want to write about this trip because it meant a lot to me, but then I thought, is this going to weird people out? I think in general, people don’t like talking about death. It makes people uncomfortable. We’ve talked about this in a few of my classes. Prior to the 20th century (and probably even in the early 20th century) people talked about death. They were comfortable with it. Death was a part of life and they didn’t shy away from it. What did they not talk about? S-E-X. Sex. Too scandalous! Now look at today…it’s the exact opposite, sex is everywhere! Death is what we avoid. I just find that so fascinating. I wish I could research it more thoroughly, but grad student duties call this weekend (and for the next few months…sigh). I did find an interesting source about how death has become taboo in American culture. Herman Feifel, one of the pioneers of this subject, came up with four trends responsible for the shift in the view on death (in case you don’t click the link):
(1) the abdication of community to a pervasive sense of individualism
(2) the replacement of a predominantly religious worldview with one that is secular
(3) the sweeping power that materialism holds on the values, interests, and behaviors in modern society
(4) the influential place of science and technology in daily life.
Yes, yes, yes, and yes. I agree wholeheartedly. It makes me sad though. I agree that these changes have happened, but I don’t think that means that our view on death has to change too. Bottom line — I think we should be more open about death…to help each other in the grieving process and to think about and understand death. This has all been on my mind all week about writing this post and basically I decided I should write it. I knew it would help me and it’s something that I really feel comfortable talking about.
I mentioned that I went on a trip with my sister and my dad. He had a few wishes for when he died. He wanted to be cremated and he wanted us to have a place to visit. Dad died pretty unexpectedly, so we didn’t get to go into more detail, so we made a few decisions from there. We decided to bury some of his ashes in a place where we could all visit and the rest we decided to spread in a few different places that had meant a lot to my dad during his life. We picked five places, all water locations, because my dad loved the water. He loved going fishing. Each of us kids picked a location (it was going to be hard to coordinate us all going to them) and we were in charge of that location. Twila and I decided to do ours together because they were the farthest. I picked Savannah, GA, where my dad was born. Twila picked Wilmington, NC, where my dad lived for a while and where a lot of our family still lives.
I should mention that a few years ago my mom, siblings, and I spread my grandparents ashes. My grandfather died in 1993 and my grandmother in 2005. They wanted their ashes spread together in the mountains of North Carolina where they first met. I thought that was so romantic. While my dad’s isn’t really romantic, it is really unique and I like that cremation allows for that (are you weirded out yet?).
As strange as it was to be excited about this trip, I really was. I didn’t see it as a really sad thing. I saw it as a way to fulfill his last wishes. A way to connect with my dad. A Gator Adventure. We both had tons of memories of Wilmington with my dad…family trips there since we were little, spending time with family, going to the beach, going fishing. My dad’s mom and sister still live there too. Our aunt (also Twila) came with us to spread dad’s ashes. Mike and my sister’s husband, Andy, came with us too, I don’t want to leave them out! After a large breakfast at Cracker Barrel (yum!), we found a nice spot where the ocean and the sound met. My dad used to go fishing out in the sound all the time. It was so peaceful that morning, there weren’t too many people out on the beach, and just a few boats out. We rolled up our pant-legs and went out into the water to spread Dad’s ashes. Now the water in this section is relatively calm. As soon as my sister handed me the ashes to spread though, a bigger wave came and drenched my pants. My aunt said “you know that was your dad messing with you.” It was just so perfect, and so true. He would’ve gotten such a kick out of that. We spent some time walking around, picking up shells, and enjoying the view.
We said goodbye to my aunt and started down towards Savannah. We had never been to Savannah. My grandfather was stationed there when my dad was born. My dad always gushed over how pretty Savannah was and what a neat city it was. I so wish that I had gotten to go there with him. We only had about 24 hours in Savannah, but we hoped to make the most of it. We did a lot of walking Friday night before our ghost tour (!!!!). Savannah is known as the most haunted city in America. It’s a city built on its dead because so many buildings and roads are built over old cemeteries. I’m a ghost freak. I’ll admit it. There are a number of ghost tours to go on in Savannah. We went on the one at the Sorrel-Weed House. Ghost Hunters filmed an episode here.
Sadly, we didn’t see any ghosts, but we did hear some pretty cool stories. I swear half of my pictures are random shots inside the house that I took hoping to see a ghost, no luck. The next day, we ate an awesome southern breakfast on River Street and headed further down the river to spread dad’s ashes. We got honked at by a ferry, I don’t think we were supposed to be where we were…again my dad would’ve laughed at this! We spent the afternoon exploring the city some more. We made good use of the tour trolleys, hopping on and off at interesting spots. We saw so quickly why my dad loved Savannah so much. There is so much charm (and history!) there. It really was a great trip, for all of us I think. All four of us were ready to pack up and move to Savannah. For me at least though, it was really special getting to see where my dad grew up and to fulfill his wishes. Doing all of this with my sister made it all the more meaningful. I really felt like it was an adventure we were going on, it wasn’t a task or a chore that we had to do. It was a special connection to my dad that I’ll always have now. What are your thoughts on death and grieving?
I’ll leave you with a few more pictures from Savannah.