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That’s Him All Over

We were never a traveling family. There were too many reasons not to be. The logistics of going places with five kids. The dogs. My husband’s job. And, most important of all, there was money–lack of.

In elementary school, our children were totally convinced that they were the only kids on the East Coast who had never been to Disney World. By high school, though, they got it. When it came to any travel plans more exotic than a trip to Grandma’s, they were on their own.

No one wanted to go places more than Dan, our intense, quirky second child. And Dan always said what he thought, frequently getting himself in trouble. “If I get to be as old as you and I’ve haven’t traveled outside the country,” he told me once, “I think I’ll kill myself.”

That stung. “I went to Canada once,” I offered. But apparently Canada didn’t count.

The truth? In spite of a seriously un-misspent youth, the only thing I regretted not doing was traveling. Just a little.

At the age of twenty, Dan suffered a massive brain injury. He never regained consciousness and died a month later. We had  a funeral mass, but a cremation rather than an internment. We all knew that Dan would have wanted to go back to the earth in some way. But how?

For two years, the box of ashes sat on our dresser.

Then, thanks to a legacy from an uncle, I got to take a trip. To Ireland. Ostensibly I was going for the music and the roots, both of which I found in abundance. But inside my carry-on bag, nestled up against the toothbrush and the gum, was a little plastic bag.

And that’s how Dan got to go to Ireland.

None of my fellow travelers knew what I was about. (I didn’t know if what I was doing was legal, and I didn’t want to find out.)  So I was pretty surreptitious when I inserted some of the ashes under the stones in an abandoned monastery. And when I slipped a few more into the dirt of an ancient Celtic burial site. And when I buried a spoonful right next to an 18th century chapel.

The next year our youngest daughter set off for Spain, determined to see the world in her brother’s place. She carried her own plastic bag, and now part of Dan lies in Madrid.

The year after that, courtesy of our oldest daughter’s honeymoon, some of the ashes were mixed with the White Sands of New Mexico. The other kids got their first passports.

At long last, it’s happened. We’re a family on the move.

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