We’ve anticipated this trip since August of 2019– when Kim asked me to join her in bringing her mother’s ashes to Skye. At that time, I said I was honored that she’d asked me, but inwardly, I wasn’t sure how it would work for me to travel with her at the planned time–one year later, September of 2020.
I was at the beginning of the divorce process and I saw a huge mountain in front of me that I had to climb: dealing with the initial turmoil of separation, preparing to put our house on the market, dividing up 40 years of marriage, continuing my part-time research job while keeping my grandson two days a week. Would I be able to take time off for a trip? Would I have the money after the costs of a divorce? Would I have the energy?
What I didn’t know in August of 2019, was that our trip would be delayed by the pandemic; I’d never considered I’d be part of a pandemic. It sounded more like something in a science fiction book–and I don’t read that genre.
In those two intervening years, I’ve done a lot of trudging up that mountain. Now, I’ve had time to get a glimpse, as well as temporary experiences, of what is on the other side of that steep climb. Throughout these days of our journey to Scotland, I’ve seen a lot of serendipity, God’s Grace, in the timing of our trip.
What I remembered from my trip to the island of Iona five years ago, was the frequent rain and very chilly, even harsh temperatures in September. This year, it’s been unseasonably warm and dry in Scotland and I’ve never once used my waterproofs that were essential before. That same dry weather gave us a perfect day to travel to Skye–where Kim would scatter her mother’s ashes.
Soon after we set out last Sunday on our 16-passenger Rabbie’s Bus Tour of the Outer Hebrides and Skye (Inner Hebrides), Kim told our driver-guide, “Catty” about our special mission to Skye. Catty promised to think about the best site for Kim to have a private spot where we could have a few moments without the rest of our group. Kim told Catty about how the MacDonald family–from Kim’s maternal grandmother’s side, would always have a bagpiper play for special occasions.
“Let me think about that,” Catty responded, with warmth in her native North Ireland, lyrical voice. We were impressed by her, the depth of her knowledge of all the places we visited, and her skill in maneuvering that vehicle on very narrow roads. Some of the Scottish drivers were as crazy as those on Interstate 40 back home and the sheep grazing by the lane just didn’t want to provide passage!
We were awed by the remote, stark beauty of the Hebrides and spent our first days on the Isle of Lewis and Harris. The lower hills and the mountains aren’t tree-covered like our Appalachian Mountains; they’re covered in heather—and most of it was a gray to greenish cover with some blooming pink-purple–the color more prevalent in Harris. Other areas had lots of rock and were monotone in color.
Then there were the tropical-appearing waters of Luskentyre beach–described as “one of the most beautiful white-sandy beaches in Britain.”
But throughout all of the tour, what we were waiting for was our arrival in Skye. On Thursday we made it to the island. The literature had described it as “Scotland’s most dramatic landscapes.”; it did not disappoint. Catty stopped at the most spectacular sites. The island was more green and had the steepest drops we’d seen. We sat in the front 2 seats on the right side–behind Catty. She told us that the stop we were approaching that had a steep hike would have the best spot for our mission.
As Catty drove around the curves to the site, I felt the strong presence of our mothers. I could imagine Mama sitting in the seat behind me, and Yvonne, Kim’s mother in the seat behind Kim. The first image that came to me was our mothers in their sixties–like Kim and me, at the age they were when they last traveled together.
But as we pulled up to the site, I had an image of Mama and Yvonne as they were at 19-years old. That was when they traveled together to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to train for Civil Service jobs in WWII. I could hear their excited voices at being in a new place. It was as if they traveled back in time and were watching their daughters honoring them.
Catty directed our fellow travelers toward the hiking trail that went to a lighthouse. She motioned for Kim and me to follow her to a grassy level spot with a perfect view of the high peaks. Kim had the container of ashes and her cell phone. She looked around and then said to me, “Here, this is the place.”
Kim had programmed her phone to a bagpiper playing “Amazing Grace.” She opened the box of ashes and released them into a sunny, no-rain day in beautiful Skye.
“Ashes to Ashes and Dust to Dust. You can fly now, Mama.”
I felt God’s presence; I felt Mama and Yvonne’s presence from ‘beyond the veil.’ It was a powerful moment and as Kim later said, it felt like her mother had come “full circle.” Yvonne had come home to Scotland, to the native land of her ancestors.
Later, I thought about how we’d anticipated our trip–as I’d mentioned in my post In Our Mothers’ Footsteps.
“The journey will bring us closer together just as our mothers were close.”
I’d noted that Kim had felt,
“by us going there together, we’d honor her mother’s wishes and symbolically allow Yvonne and Mary to travel together again– through their daughters.”
When we drove away from the site, Yvonne’s final resting ground, I patted Kim’s knee and said,
“Well done, good and faithful daughter.”
She had honored her mother’s final wish; Kim had carried her mother 3,500 miles through airports, by ferry, by tour bus to her final resting spot. And amazingly, while it was sunny with no rain where we did her service, nearby there was rain.
And a rainbow appeared just after we’d laid Yvonne to rest.
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound” and how sweet that special time on the Isle of Skye.
Now, I finish this post in my hotel room in Dublin–one week after we set out on our journey to the Hebrides. The bells of Christ’s Church Cathedral are tolling and on our television we watch the coverage of the Queen’s death and funeral preparations. We are experiencing a time that will be remembered in history; meanwhile, we’ve experienced a time in our personal history– a time of mourning for Kim’s mother that has finally been completed.
We’ll never forget this trip; in the week’s ahead, we’ll understand more of how we’ve been changed.
Thank you all for your prayers and good wishes for our journey; we have felt that blessing and are indeed grateful.
Peace to you all,