My mother used to tell my brother and me that she’d played shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers. I never questioned that. You would have to have known her. She was so convincing. This became family lore, and eventually she told the story that she named me Maggie because “it has two Gs in it and they stand for gullible, gullible.“
We had many a laugh over this throughout the years. When she was 64 and first became ill, she kept her sense of humor through the six years of her illness and dying. Her mind remained sharp.
She died at the too-young age of 70, and we carried out her wishes, to scatter her ashes at the beach. We did this on her November birthday which, that year, was Thanksgiving. I know I was putting it off. Finally our son-in-law said, “If you want to do this today we should get going because soon it will be dark.” So after our daughter, her new husband, our son and his girlfriend, my in-laws, and my husband and I had had our dinner, we headed out to the beach. I carried that black box in my mittened hands.
My stomach churned. I didn’t know what her remains would look like. Yes, I had that fear of the unknown. But when I opened it, it was all grey ash. That’s it. I was wearing a purple down jacket. I whooshed those ashes to the wind, and some of them got on my jacket. I loved that. And I felt good that we were doing as she desired.
Five months earlier, after the visitation at the funeral home, my brother, his wife, our children, and my husband and I stood in the parking lot with blue and green balloons. Blue and green were her favorite colors so there was no question as to what colors to get. Each balloon was on a long ribbon, and attached was a little white card. We decided we were going to write messages on those cards before releasing them heavenward.
Well, if you’ve read my writings you know that I often tend to be wordy, and I was trying mightily to write every possible significant thing I could think of on that little card. I was writing so small, and up the sides of the card. It was as if I couldn’t get it all said. Fortunately, my mom and I had said everything to each other while she was still alive.
Finally everyone was done. At the last minute I said, “Would anyone mind if we read what we wrote?”
And my brother said, “No. You go first.” He must have known that it would have been the longest. Of course he was right. Then the others read theirs. My brother read last. Its simplicity and poignancy touches me still:
Shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers.