Pop’s Pilgrimage

Two big things happened in my life a year ago. My soul-sister fell in love, and my father died. That time in my life was proof that we humans can hold space for every emotion, all at once. I was simultaneously heart-filled and heartbroken.

I held space for my dear friend through her darkest depths, and was blessed to bear witness to the moment she found her person. I had never seen her so happy, and knowing that her darkness had finally found illumination brought me enormous joy and peace. Meanwhile, I was holding space for my father’s physical decline, his struggles with body betrayal, and finally… an end to that struggle. Death is always bittersweet when the ache of a loved one’s suffering is replaced by their absence.

Since my friend also cared for my father, she was painfully aware of the limits of time with those we love, and she did not hesitate to take action, once she had found the soul who brought her spirit back to life. She sold everything and moved north. So, for nearly as long as I have been missing my father’s physical presence, I have also been missing hers.

From afar, she held space for all of the ‘firsts’ without my Pop, and as the anniversary of his death and her birthday grew near, she invited me to come up for a weekend adventure. They had plans to RV over to Provincetown (MA) to see friends, and it wasn’t long before everything fell into place as magick was revealed.

This journey would allow me to be in the state where my father grew up on the anniversary of his death. Further, a stop in a place he had written about in his #MemoirsForMelissa would be easily on our path, either to or from. I knew I was being led to carry some of his cremated remains back to a place he cherished in his youth. For me, it felt like a pilgrimage.

Once again, my lifelong friends supported my journey with inspiration, enthusiasm and great care. When you find the people who are genuinely happy and supportive of your own happiness, and will do everything possible to see you through every opportunity to attain it – you know that you are truly blessed. One asked me if there would be a ceremony to honor Pop on the trip, and that’s when that seed was planted. One generously booked my flights with her buddy pass. And one was my driver to and from the airport (actually, she sent her hubby on the homebound trip, which was a nice surprise). Also, my brother came up to care for Mom, and they both delighted in having each other to themselves for a few days. And of course, my friend and her wife graciously made room for me on their previously scheduled journey. The Universe clearly conspired to make it happen.

It is not every friend who chooses a partner to whom I feel immediately connected. But finally meeting in person the love of my friend’s life, felt like a homecoming. We are family, and it was written in the stars. These two were blessed to find each other, and I feel blessed to bear witness. They carried me with them on an adventure and held space for the surprising emotions that would rise and the magick that would be revealed. I am grateful.

I flew into their hometown and we loaded up the RV (christened The Honey Pot) with provisions and two golden retrievers, then drove eastbound toward the Cape (Cod, that is). In North Truro and PTown, we met up with several of their friends, many of whom were meeting in person for the first time. Each were warm, welcoming beings who made me feel included despite this being my first introduction. They have built a caring, mindful, loving community through social media, and this technology reminds me of the harm it has caused, but also the beauty of connection it has delivered. Like we humans, the internet holds both darkness and light.

Provincetown, to me, was a mixed bag. I seem to have lost interest in shopping since having chosen to live more simply. Mostly, I was delighted by the people watching. In this beautiful place, people feel safe to be authentic. Nothing fills my soul more than seeing individuals express their true nature with confidence and acceptance. Our society’s insistence on conformity is confounding. I would rather die than be subjected to a world filled with sameness. When you find yourself surrounded by a community that has left behind the places that punished them for their truth, you cannot help but feel overwhelmed by the joy of their expressive realness.

We were in PTown for Dad’s death anniversary (July 17), and found a delightful outdoor spot for lunch. As I was looking into the eyes of my dear friend with gratitude to be sharing her birthday with her, I suddenly burst into tears. I’d been told how grief sneaks up on you when you least expect it, and there it was. As she comforted me, my friend glanced at her phone and said aloud, “It’s 2:02. Pop is here.” And we knew it was true. It was the exact moment, one year ago, that his heart stopped. My angel number. When I see it, I know he is near.

Later that afternoon, one of the kind and generous souls in their group swung by the campground to pick us up. As we drove to the beach where we would gather and bounce upon salty waves, the radio did that thing it does. The night before we let Dad go, I set up his tablet to play music he enjoyed. I had asked him to find a way to communicate with me in ways I could understand. As I questioned whether he was ready to go and if I was being true to his wishes, he played three songs for me. The first one was the same as what came over the car radio… Sailing by Christopher Cross. The line that stood out to me on that difficult night at his bedside was, “Soon I will be free.”

The next day, we packed up the RV and made our way to the place I had most anticipated. Twenty years before his death, my father showed up for me. I had asked him to write down stories from his life that I could have when he was gone. Mom had reported that he had been honoring my request, and though I knew they were out there somewhere, I waited until he was gone to find them and read them. My brother found them last Thanksgiving (our first without Pop), and I shared one story per day with my friends and family on FB.

This is the story he left, that inspired this sojourn… from Bill Baker’s Memoirs for Melissa

From the Family Archive – Bakers by the Shore

“One of Dad’s customers owed him a couple of hundred dollars during the war years and signed over the deed to a “summer cottage” in Humarock, close to Scituate near Cape Cod.  It was a little box of a place on an island between a river and the Atlantic with a bedroom, kitchen, half-bathroom, living/dining room, and a little porch.  No electricity.  No bath or shower. Icebox. Gas stove. No heat, no A/C. Loft above the bedroom and bathroom space for 2 kids to sleep. Ladder to pull down and climb up to go to bed. Comic books for color entertainment. (Dad had a customer who did PR for a bunch of Buster Brown shoe stores and he would bring Dad all the comics as he replaced them each month). We would go there when school was out (The House in East Milton, and later the big house on Elliot St would boil in the summer (No A/C remember), and stay until the weekend before Labor Day when school started in the fall.

     I remember one night at the beach, the air raid marshal knocked on the door to tell us our lights were showing through the black curtains every window had. He was afraid the light could be seen by a submarine out in the ocean. Beth and I turned out the light in our upstairs bedroom and went to sleep. The next day, I was running along the sand dunes on the ocean side, and when I jumped over the top, down into a little depression, I was surprised by a huge German shepherd and a coast guardsman watching over a big machine gun.  He was there to keep Germans from coming ashore from submarines. I stayed away from the dunes after dark for the rest of the war.”

I had reached out to one of Dad’s cousins who still lives up north, and her eldest sister reflected warmly on those years, visiting her cousins on the beach. She was able to give me a better idea of where they spent their summers. The cottage was to the right after crossing the bridge, and on the river side, rather than the ocean side.

My friends and I left the RV in a parking spot at the bridge’s edge and walked past where my Dad and his brothers fished when they were kids, and out to the oceanside beach. I read Pop’s words above and offered a cup of his ashes to the waves in which he once played. A gentle rain began to fall. Then, we walked over to the riverside. I didn’t have an address for their cottage and imagined it would have been replaced by something more modern. We turned at the fire station and walked by the first house from the bridge to a public area with access to the river. My friend and I each offered what was left of Pop’s cremains to the water, rock, and mud of another area I was sure had carried his small feet, once upon a time.

I didn’t take many pictures but captured videos to share with family. The three of us then popped into the Irish Pub on the corner, between the ocean and river for a late lunch. I met a man named Don sitting at the bar as I passed to wash my hands. I told him the story my father had shared and he assured me that my grandparents’ cottage was still there. He’d been living there for 65 years and knew that if a house had changed, it was never torn down, but added to. Maybe someday I’ll learn the address and visit once more. Don also let me know that the restaurant we were in would have been the post office and a small general store during World War II, so my father would surely have been there, as well. When I sat down at the table with my friends, I looked at my phone. It was 2:02.

After lunch, my friend wanted to stop in the gift shop across the street. To be honest, I’m not really a shopper anymore. But I was happy to pop in with my sweet friend who helped manifest this moment for me. The first row to the left offered shirts and sweatshirts branded for this beach. As I stepped around to the next aisle, I found a carousel of jewelry. There were two necklaces at the top that faced me, one was an arrow (a significant symbol in my life), and the other was a name… Melissa. You can poo-poo synchronicity all you want, but I know for sure that magick was afoot. Pop was present, as always.

My friend purchased a souvenir for each of us, and as she checked out I told my Dad’s story to the clerk. She said there was a local historian I would love to talk to, and said he had even written a book about the history of Humarock. I felt compelled to purchase a copy to take home to Mom and share with Dad’s siblings. I later handed it to Mom, and she said that Dad would have loved it. I said, “I know! He made me buy it!”

We would have loved to linger in that sacred place, but we had a long journey home and I had a flight to catch the next morning. I felt so blessed to have walked in my father’s footsteps with my darling friend and her beloved. It was a moment filled with a history, a present, and a future of the manifestation of true love. My grandparents’ love for each other brought into this world my father and his siblings who spent their summers in this place of beauty. My parents’ love for each other brought my brother and me into this world, and the love that my friend found by divine providence brought us three together on this pilgrimage. And though my father is no longer physically in this world, his love and our love will continue to resonate and grow for all time. Like the restaurant that once was a post office, it may change but it never goes away.

View from the Honey Pot (RV) – Long and Thankful Journey Home

Thanks for showing up, Pop. You know that’s my love language, and you never let me down. Keep sending me the signs. I’ll wait right here.

Thank you for walking this path with me. I love knowing you are here.

Author: MelissaBee

Author of Persephone's Passage: Walking My Father into the Underworld - The Spiritual Journey of an End-of-Life Doula; Joyfully exploring an authentic life as a writer, a healer, and a sacred ceremony facilitator, while caring for aging parents, with reverence and gratitude.

One thought on “Pop’s Pilgrimage”

  1. I can’t believe it’s been a year already. I share your grief, but I also share your delight in holding good memories close. Your Pop will always be with you until you are ready to join him.

    Liked by 1 person

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