I spent the last four days in West Texas. My Mom, sister and I flew from Detroit into San Antonio and then drove the three hours to Del Rio, Texas. This is the part of the country my Mom comes from. She was the only one of five children that moved out of the state and never returned. We are the Yankees in the family. I have spent family vacations visiting Texas and some of my family from Texas has come and visited us, but we have never gotten to see each other a lot. We've had a week here and two weeks there. Letters sent back and forth with a cousin for a year until she got married and a month spent living with another until I decided Dallas wasn't for me. Despite this we share something strong. When we do get together there is a lot of talking, laughing and storytelling. We feel connected. We know the stories of each other’s lives, the good and the bad and love each other anyway.
We went down this time to say a final farewell to my Grandparents. My Grandma died last year at 98. My Grandfather had died several years ahead of her. They had both elected to donate their bodies to science. When this happens the body is cremated and then the ashes are returned to the family up to a year later. My Grandfather’s ashes have been waiting for my Grandma’s departure from this earth so that they could be celebrated together. This seems fitting for many reasons. They had known each other their whole lives and now they are both reunited after a short period of separation.
When the plans first started for the final farewell they consisted of spreading the ashes in Amsted Lake where they spent their final years together and then we were going to a family reunion of sorts that takes place in Langtry, Texas every year. During the planning of this, however, my mom was contacted by an old family friend that offered the family the option of spreading their ashes at his family’s ranch.
The ranch was a place that my Mom’s family spent a lot of time. My Grandparents Buster and Angie were very good friends with Pete and Joy Baker the ranches owners. I have heard stories about the Baker Ranch since I was a little girl. Stories that I thought were quite magical. It was amazing to be able to, for the first time in my life actually set foot on this Ranch. Don’t get pictures in your head about the Ewing’s place on Dallas. They don’t even compare and quite frankly I’d take the Baker’s Ranch over that one in a heartbeat.
The ranch is no longer used as a ranch but the spirit of the place remains, the round pen where Pete and Buster used to break the horses. The milking house and barn, the spot for shoeing horses and the ranch house that shockingly held two families with a combined 12 children. I reflected on how we all have way too much stuff.
After looking over the place we drove across the road and down a ways and then got out and walked the rest of the way down to the river. It was an absolutely beautiful day and not too hot under the live oaks growing along the way.
We gathered at the edge of the river and some of us waded in. My cousin’s husband Mike performed a small service while standing on a rock in the river and then the ashes were spread into the running water. Mike centered his service on five words he felt described my Grandparents and then challenged us to think of our own five words. It was a lovely service. The perfect send off for two people who loved this land.
I’ve been thinking about this ever since. One of the words I picked was creative. I’ve always felt that my creative spirit came from them, through my Mom and then to me. I noticed while visiting with the family that we are all like this. Building, painting, sewing, singing, baking and making; all of us do this. It’s quite incredible to me especially since I so often hear from people that they could never learn to do what I do and yet I have a whole family of makers behind me.
This weekend was a last gift from my Grandparents. It was a gift of connection, shared experience, love, laughter and family.