She thought that when people died, they were gone, forever. Her mom and grammy turned into dust at the cremation center. She poured their dust into the ocean off the coast of California, the same place where they had lived for so long and died so young. They mixed in with the waves, rolling around, eventually mixing in with the sand, serving as good nutrients to grow coral and seaweed on the bottom of the ocean. They spread throughout the ocean, all over the world. It was comforting to her to know that whenever she was near the ocean, she was near her grammy and mom in a sense.
Although sometimes believing in ghosts and spirits (mainly from horror movies) she couldn’t fathom the idea that there was anything more than the blankness that she thought came with death. She wished it were different, but after trying so many times to reach out to her mom and never getting a response, she lost hope. Her friends thought she was pessimistic and closed- minded for not believing in the afterlife, but this wasn’t fair because not one of them had the type of relationship with death that she did, or even a relationship at all. She couldn’t blame them for not understanding her, and she wished with all her might that they never would.
She missed her grammy and mom, she wanted to prove herself wrong, prove to herself that the afterlife was real, that they didn’t just vanish from her life in a mist. So she grabbed a handful of clothes, tossed them in a bag, and hopped in her red 1996 Ford Explorer. She drove through the Rocky Mountains, through the blankness of open fields, through the furnace of Death Valley, through California cities, never shutting her eyes, in a dream state, mesmerized by the sight of images of her loved ones who have passed. All along the way, she didn’t see the pine trees, the green and yellow grasslands, the elk, the red dirt and mirages in Death Valley; she didn’t listen to “road-trip music,” all she saw were the lives of her mom and grammy and all she heard was a constant high pitched hum. The lives of her mom and grammy playing like video clips on a television on repeat in front of her eyes. Her mom dancing. Her grammy hugging her. Her mom snuggling with her as a child. Her grammy playing with her dog, Martini. Her mom tanning on the beach.
Videos stuck on repeat.
She finally reached the water off of Oceanside, still seeing the flashing clips, the water that she once poured her grammy and mom into. She grabbed the blanket that her mom once owned, the blanket that came packed in one of those cardboard boxes with all her things left at rehab. She saw clips of her mom locking herself in her room to do drugs. Inviting that creepy man into their house, shutting her bedroom door. Smashing her head on the car window, driving high. Laying in the hospital bed in Los Angeles waiting to die from too much sickness and one too many pills. The blanket was the one with patches of blue and swimming turtles on it, she set out for the beach in the darkness of the night, following the moon beams that bounced off the ocean to guide her way. She laid on the sand throughout the night, under the white moonlight. The only noise she could hear was the constant noise of waves crashing on the sand, but to her this sounded like the chant her mother used to say to her every night before bed.
I love you to the moon and back.
Around the world.
Infinity times forever.
She still hadn’t shut her eyes, waiting for a sign from her grammy and mom, waiting for them to prove her wrong.
Three more nights she sat there, looking like a zombie, staring at the dark ocean, not moving, as if she were a corpse at the morgue. During the day when people came to enjoy the beach, they would avoid her, parents would shield their children from her, people walked as far away from her as possible. They thought she was a deranged homeless woman probably gone crazy from shooting up too much heroin, she had a blank look on her face and never-shutting eyes that were staring at what seemed like nothing.
On her fourth night on the beach in Oceanside, on her fourth night of sitting curled up like a baby under the moonlight in her mother’s turtle blanket, she finally blinked. She stood up and walked down to the water, dragging her feet in the sand all along the way. She felt the water on her feet, in between her toes, a pleasant freezing of her feet. She crouched down to write a message to her mom in the wet sand. She said that she loved her, that she wished that she responded to all those times that she tried to reach out to her after she died, that she wished to see her.
After the waves soaked in her message, brushing over it until it disappeared, the moonlight that bounced off the waves next to her began to take a strange shape. The moonlight slowly morphed into a glowing woman who wore a white dress that spanned the ocean breadth, whose train effortlessly remained untangled despite the crashing waves. Dancing towards her on the surface of the water, the illuminating figure stopped in front of her without saying a word. It was clear to her that this was both her mom and grammy, a combination of the two in one being. Their ashes had morphed into a translucent fairy-like being with wings that were those of an angelic, radiating butterfly. She stared at this being that was her mom and grammy, and this divine being stared back, not saying a word out loud. They talked together through the beats of their hearts. Expressing that they, loved each other.
Missed each other.
Would see each other again.
Her mom was now free from the pain of addiction and her grandmother now free from the pain of cancer. Their hearts pumped together in rhythm until the sun started to rise and the being gradually disappeared with the vanishing moonlight.
Slowly people started trickling onto the beach, to enjoy the ocean as they did everyday. This time, she blinked, she moved, the people talked with her not recognizing that she was the “deranged homeless woman high on heroin” from the day before. She packed up her turtle blanket, walked away from the ocean, and said goodbye to the vast sea that was taking care of her mom and grammy. She hopped back into her 1996 Ford Explorer and drove back to Colorado. She drove through the California cities, through the furnace of Death Valley, through the open fields, through the Rocky Mountains. Listening to folk music and looking in wonder at the red dirt and mirages in Death Valley, the running elk, the yellow and green grasslands, the pine trees of the Rockies; finally free. She finally made it home and sat down on her floor, sighing, relieved to have been proved wrong, knowing that her loved ones were still there.