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Wild Horses

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Hi All,

I flew back east in late September to visit family and to help my Mom and siblings put my little sister Nancy to rest. Nancy had died of Lung cancer on August 9th. She'd asked to be cremated and her wishes had been honored, but a final resting place hadn't been decided on.

By the time I arrived in Virginia Beach, my Mom had called a lot of cemeteries and inquired about placing ashes and had narrowed it down to only one. She wanted some place where Nancy's sons Justin (21) and Devan (17) would be able to go, sit quietly and remember their mom. So, she and I drove out to this place to get a look at their "ashuary".

As it turned out, the quiet reflective place was 5' off the edge of a roadway smack through the center of the place and consisted of a cheesy brick patio (not done well either) and little marble posts with bronze nameplates attached.

"Are these the individual urns?" I asked. "Oh no!" the cemetery lady responded, "We don't have those! Everyone's remains are co-mingled together here in a central container." She indicated a concrete lid on the ground by a bench.

I know it's silly, but I got a mental vision of thousands of consciousnesses tied inextricably together like a huge Chinese knot for eternity. I guess my mother had the same image, because she got that, "What? You've got to be friggin kidding me!" look on her face, turned on her heel and without saying a word we headed for the car.

We were pretty bummed about it until my older sister Jean came over that night. Jean had a very simple solution. "Nancy loved horses her whole life more than almost anything else," she said, "Why not take her down to the barrier islands and leave her with the wild horse herd?"

The next day, myself, my mother, Jean, my wife and my two nephews, along with their Dad - Nancy's ex - headed for the barrier islands in North Carolina. It's a trip of about 100 miles. At the end of the paved roads around Corolla, we parked one of the cars and all piled into Jeans 4WD and headed north on the beach, every once in a while detouring over the berm into the woods to look for horse sign. After about 22 miles, I found an area where it was obvious horses regularly bed down next to a channel.

Walking back to the car, I looked far down the dirt road and saw some movement - we'd found one of the herds. We drove down the dirt track about another half mile and found a single stallion with a 3-mare harem, two colts and one mare about to drop.

We pulled over, all got out and then had lunch while we watched the herd grazing. It seemed so surreal to be looking at horses that are protected and completely wild - the ancestors of some unknown ship that must have sunk off the coast 400 years ago maybe? - and didn't seem to have a care in the world. For their own part, they just ignored us and went on with their grazing on the lawn of one of the weekend 'cabins' built out there off the beach.

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My wife Yung was enthralled by the working relationship between horse and a little crane or heron type of bird that had taken up residence on the rump of one of the mares. The horse put up with it because the bird was happily snapping up flies that were pestering the horse. At the rate the bird was going, I guessed that he consumed about 3 or 4,000 flies a day. It was an odd sight and one that I don't expect one would see with domesticated horses - at least I'd never seen it. Hell, if a bird that size had landed on any of the horses that Nancy or Jean had over the years, they probably would have taken off kicking and bucking.

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Anyway, after lunch, we drove about 50 meters out to the berm overlooking the beach and Devan and Justin spread Nancy's ashes along the top of the berm so that she could watch the sun come up every morning and go for an occasional ride when the urge struck her. We sat for a while in silence and Jean walked down to where the tide had gone out and wrote an inscription in the sand with Nancy's name, date of birth and the date of her passing. Finally, we noted the distance on a mileage marker staked into the ground at the base of the berm and we headed back up the beach.

It was a good day.


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Good call. Can't imagine a better way to do it.

Modern American conventional funerary arrangements are morbid @ best, grotesque & vile @ worst, and expensive as hell for the opportunity to be offended beyond all conceivable bounds.

Creating one's own traditions are vastly preferrable, & spiritually coherent. I knew you was a smart guy; you gave your sister & her family the best thing you could.

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Originally posted by kurt

Modern American conventional funerary arrangements are morbid @ best, grotesque & vile @ worst, and expensive as hell for the opportunity to be offended beyond all conceivable bounds.

I couldn't agree more, except to add absurd and pointless to what it is at best. How can they stand over the grave of an enbalmed person whose remains rest in a steel casket inside a concrete vault and say "Ashes to ashes and dust to dust"?

Good for you Mike. My wife and best friend both know what white-water river I wish to run once more when the time comes.

Brian G.

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As long as we're crossing the subject of death and remains, I'd like to encourage anyone who hasn't done it yet to sign up for organ donation. Once you're gone those organs are worthless to you, but they would be priceless to anyone here who could still use them, and the people who love and suffer with the needy ones. Don't let any drivel about letting you die to sell your organs to some rich businessman stop you from doing something special at your very last opportunity on earth. Please, sign the card.

Brian G.

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