Sixty one years ago, when I was still a pre-adolescent, my family joined my aunt and uncle at the most beautiful place on earth for a week of vacation. That turned into an annual tradition and as the families grew and met other families, it became a much anticipated gathering. It is a place where many of the clan’s children and grandchildren were baptized and weddings held.
Last year was the last year that my Dad made it to this lovely place alive, the last of the elders of that gathering. The place is Shrine Mont. This past week, many of us gathered in the same 8 room cottage to be together, commune in nature, and inter my Dad’s ashes in his favorite place on earth. My stepmom, husband, and I are the oldest members of this surviving clan. A daughter of one of the non related families came to visit for a day. It was a gathering of my siblings, some of our children, and grandchildren, one cousin, and another daughter of yet another of the non related families. As the elders of that group passed, the group fell away and we have not kept in touch with all of the other offspring as closely as we should, but many come back the first full week of August each year. We all knew that last year would be the last time he saw Shrine Mont, though none of us wanted to accept that. He even conceded to being driven down the hill to meals and back up to the cottage afterwards. At 92, he was afraid to hike or walk the unpaved rough trails. Though his mind and wit stayed keen to the end, he needed some help playing cribbage, a game he loved and taught so many of us to play.
We visited, went through many envelopes of old photos, taking from them many memories, played cribbage and ping pong. We had a toast to the elder fathers of the group that brought us together and who annually conducted a “scientific experiment” on which of the 7 springs had the best water as a mixer with a bottle of Jack Daniels Black label. We held a teary memorial dedication for the bronze plaque permanently affixed to the stone wall around the memorial garden with his brother and sister-in-law and 5 of the other members of the elders clan, and we hiked to the top of the mountain to the cross on a tower to say our final goodbye. This was a hike we had made dozens of times over the years with him. Those that couldn’t hike it were taken up in a Gator and a Jeep. Tears were shed, his favorite songs were sung, hugs were shared, and we said our goodbyes, leaving him in a beautiful spot he loved.
As my niece (who was unable to join us) stated in a post, we will smile and feel his presence as we cross the places where we share his memory.
Though it was miserably hot last week with hot humid days and no air conditioning, we were given permission to light the first fire in the new outdoor fireplace on the lawn, and we cooked hot dogs and roasted marshmallows as we have done for years in the cottage fireplace on cool evenings. I’m sure he smiled down on us and asked for one cooked just right.
(I have deliberately not posted any photos from the week, as it was a personal, family time, but if you click the link above and linger on the site, you can see this wonderful spot.)