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Funeral at Sea, Age 57

Recently retired from the California Department of Education, Andrew Laufer is writing a book about his life including periods as a butcher's helper, food service worker, construction laborer, animal research assistant, seasonal fire fighter, and janitor. In his youth, he hitch-hiked up and down the coast and out to Colorado numerous times providing context for hundreds of short stories.

I've never liked the idea of being buried at sea. The thought of it always made me feel cold. Being buried six feet underground doesn't appeal to me either. Makes me feel like I'd be stuck in a tight, deep, dark, and dank place forever. I'd rather be cremated and have my ashes spread out around my cabin in the Sierra Nevada mountains. My stepmother wanted to combine cremation with a funeral at sea.

Leanore Small, became Leanore Laufer after marrying my dad. She became endeared to me, ever so patient, and always willing to welcome me into her home even after my dad passed. Sadly, cancer took her from this world before anyone expected her to go.

Her funeral services were in Brookings, Oregon, a coastal town just north of the California border. She had been cremated and her ashes were placed in a paper model of a gardenia, her favorite flower. It was about two feet in diameter, and shaped so that her ashes were enclosed in the center of the flower. Her pastor owned a party boat large enough for everyone and he took us out into the ocean to conclude the ceremony on the water.

The weather was foggy, but the water was calm with slow rolling swells three to four feet high. Other than the swells, the water was smooth and peaceful. When we reached our destination, a side rail from the boat was removed, and my step-brother took the gardenia in his hands, lay on the deck and set Leanore's ashes gently into the water as the wave moved up to accept them.
















We were told the gardenia would float for about 15 minutes and give everyone time to watch her and say their goodbyes. I didn't believe it would float that long, so I never took my eyes off her.

As the boat moved forward, I walked to the stern keeping my eyes on the gardenia. Sure enough, within just one minute, one side of the flower dipped into the water and started to slide under the surface. Once she was under the water, the current caught her, and she changed direction moving from right to left. The visual effect was like she was a magnificent manta ray swimming gracefully back and forth under the water, moving deeper all the while, until she was gone.

Having no fresh gardenia's, we scattered rose petals on the water and circled the area, when the sun broke through the fog over the boat. We couldn't see the shore, or out into the ocean. The white walls of fog that surrounded us resembled a beautiful marble cathedral. The area was full of bright sunshine, the rose petals were brilliant red on the smooth dark water, and the top fringes of the fog walls contained wisps of rainbows. It was a stunning goodbye and a blessing of peace.

The culmination of Leanore's funeral at sea was like being wrapped in a warm blanket of love. It left me with the feeling that death is the end for our body, not our spirit.

~ Andrew Laufer


















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