Life and Death Abroad

My name is Rob, and I took a trip.

Specifically, a trip to Mexico. When re-entering the States I was asked the question you hear in the movies.

Business or Pleasure?

Before the trip, I didn't know how to answer the question.

I went to Mexico to celebrate with my grandparents, and also to spread their ashes "where the water is warm".

The entire trip was surreal. This was the very first time I'd ever left the comfort of the United States.  In this case, I left the comfort of the United States to experience the incredibly elevated level of comfort of an all-inclusive resort in Cozumel. 

Upon check-in a bellhop enthusiastically relieved me of my bag, and another staff member handed me a cool towel and a glass of champagne. This is the very definition of luxury, which I'll expound upon in a later post.

Before even getting to my room, I spot my aunt and some of my cousins, clad in swimwear having recently exited one of the pools. I was greeted with hearty Great to see you's and Merry Christmas's. It was December 27th, and I was nearly sweating in the 85 degree sun.

Carol and I were still pinching ourselves when we finally got to our room, which was both extravagant and enormous.

The rest of our first day was spent lounging on the beach, with the occasional walk along the shore. Dinner was a relaxed 4-course, two-hour affair at the gourmet french restaurant. 

Our only hard and fast plan for the trip was to board a chartered sailboat the following day, which was to take all 15 of us snorkeling and to do the deed. 

Making any other plans was hard. In this part of the world, there exists such a thing called 'island time'. And it's infectious. Nobody seemed able to give anyone else a direct answer to any question, and yet somehow, more or less everything fell into place - half an hour late.

The second day included a relaxed morning - breakfast by room service for some of us, Pilates on the beach for others.

When we convened for our excursion into the gulf, the mood was high. We were, after all, about to go snorkeling in one of the top destinations on the planet.

Upon boarding, we get all our stuff stored away, and the crew begin handing out masks and flippers to those of us who required them.

Immediately exiting harbor he stops and asks if we're all ready.

Assuming we're about to set sail for our first destination, our response was enthusiastic and affirmative.

He told us to jump off the boat.

We were there - 50 feet from the harbor exit.

This was startling, but not at all disappointing.

Looking over the side of the boat into the 25 feet of crystal clear blue water below us, you could see every detail on the bottom.  



The next hour or so was spent in the water, snacking on the deck, and drinking margaritas.

Then it happened - both gradually and instantaneously at the same time. The sounds of the ocean and voices faded. A quiet fell over all of us.  The gravity of why we where gathered here hit us. It was time to spread the ashes.

Some held back tears. Others tried and failed. 

Comments were exchanged. There were words of my grandparents' last wishes, and how so very fortunate we were to be able to gather all of us together for a truly Grand Send-off.

Another silence descended, all of us lost in our thoughts, no one wanting to interrupt the moment.

In typical Hereth fashion, the silence was broken by an irreverent comment about how much of a smart-ass my grandfather was, and how bull-headed my grandmother could be.

The laughter brought forth a deluge of fond memories. Stories of my grandmothers borderline obsession with sports, my grandfathers bad jokes, their love of travel, and The Map(a world map with many dozens of push-pins marking every new place they visited) were shared. There was more than one mention of how no one had the presence of mind to bring any grapes or white wine with us - two things that were nearly always within arms' reach of my grandmother.

It was then that the music started, and those with their sea-legs about them danced as best they could on the deck.

Shortly into the second song, a crew member appeared from below deck with half a bottle of white wine, which was aptly poured overboard in one final tribute.

Did I mention the surrealism of this trip? 

I was wet from snorkeling, standing on the deck of 40' sailboat in the Gulf of Mexico, with my attention engulfed by what was, effectively, a funeral.

The most fitting final resting place for my grandparents.

The most fitting final resting place for my grandparents.

This is how we do it.

In my family, we don't mourn death. We celebrate life, and we do it to the fullest.