Celebration of Life

This past weekend provided a gift for the living – happy memories to sustain my family even as we continue to grieve and miss our dearly departed.

My cousins coordinated lodging, meals, and even chartered a boat so that we could scatter the ashes of my Auntie JoJo, Uncle Tom, and cousin Tommy in Tampa bay.  They identified passages for readings and asked those in attendance – as well as those who could not be with us in person – to share memories.

Mom, Dad, and I arrived in St. Petersburg on Friday afternoon, Our accommodations were at the Guy Harvey Outpost on St. Pete Beach.

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Mom and Dad had a room on the third floor, but I shared a room with my cousin on the second floor.  We settled into our room, unpacked, and headed down for a dinner with the family at the Island Grille & Raw Bar.  Most of the family was able to meet for dinner, but a few were coming in later so a few of us met them for drinks and eats later in the evening.

Originally, the weather forecast for Saturday promised cooler temperatures, so we all dressed in layers that we were able to peel off as the day warmed.  We could not have asked for more perfect weather for our celebration.

My cousins chartered the Calypso Cat with Island Beach Adventures.

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A few family members arrived early to decorate, lay out food and photos, place the ashes of our loved ones on a table along with programs.

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My cousin David, in charge of the music, fortunately arrived early enough to help flag the rest of us down and direct us to the location since GPS and MapQuest didn’t quite get us where we needed to be.  John Lennon’s “Imagine” played as we walked onto the Calypso Cat.

Once our entire party of family and friends arrived, Captain Hans and his first mate navigated us expertly out of the no-wake zone out into the bay.  Several pods of dolphin escorted us along the way to our destination.

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 Three miles out from the shore, we stopped the engines, paused the music, and started our readings.

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My uncle Jim scattered Tom Senior’s ashes.  Dad and Mom scattered Tommy and Diva, along with the pressed rose petals.  My three cousins – Corinne, MaryJo, and Elene – scattered Auntie JoJo.  All in attendance offered silent wishes and tossed roses into the water as well.

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At the conclusion of our readings and prayers and sharing of memories, tears and laughter, we started the journey back to shore and enjoyed sandwiches, chicken, fruit, cheese, and chocolate while we continued to reminisce.

Still far out from shore, a few of us saw a butterfly flit over the prow of the boat several times.  We felt it a gift and a blessing on the day, as you don’t often see butterflies so far from shore.  In the no wake zone, another dolphin followed along the Calypso Cat as we made our way back to the dock.

 In the few hours between the scattering of the ashes and our celebratory dinner, we met down on the beach for drinks, laughter, and remembering.

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We changed for dinner and then several of our decided to walk along the beach to the restaurant so that we could enjoy the sunset.

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We had an amazing meal at the Palm Court Italian Grill.  Great company, great food, and great conversation made for a marvelous evening.

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After dinner, a few of us enjoyed a soak in the jacuzzi and swim before bed.

Sunday morning, we had an amazing breakfast at RumFish Grill.

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Before traveling to our homes or other destinations, we managed to get a group photo at the hotel.

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I believe our loved ones felt honored by our words, thoughts, and deeds this weekend and blessed us with perfect weather and a weekend full of love and magic.  I cannot thank my cousins and Aunt Mary and Uncle George enough for such a wonderful tribute to the departed and their living memory.

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