Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Butterflies Flutter By

During our recent trip to Key West to inter and spread the ashes of my Darling-Sister-In-Law (June 1- June 7), The Colonel, Yam, Spud and I visited The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory

I would highly recommend a visit there if you ever find yourself in Key West. When you enter the establishment you are immediately in a large room that houses the gift shop. To your left you will find an employee at a counter. Once you purchase your ticket, they will stamp your hand (which allows you to enter the butterfly room as often as you want that day. We went through twice) and point you to the double doors that will lead you to a room that has butterfly and moth displays and information. When you have learned all you wished about butterflies and moths there is another set of double doors for you to enter.

This second set of doors takes you into a small antechamber with another set of double doors opposite those you just came through. Before you open the second set of doors, make sure the ones behind you are closed (there is a sign that will remind you of this). Now you can open the second set of doors, but as you do, make sure you watch that no butterfly or moth enters the antechamber that you are exiting. 

You will find yourself in a beautiful, jungle-like room that is filled with butterflies, moths, birds (I saw one turtle) and it is all within a climate-controlled, glass-enclosed habitat.

I was snapping away like "Rain Man". Here are a few of my photographs. We liked watching the butterflies eat the fruit.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

In Her Happy Place Now

Darling Sister-In-Law (DSIL) has been gone from us for just over six months now. In her final wishes she asked that some of her ashes be spread in specific places and some be placed in her columbarium niche in the Key West cemetery. DSIL also specified that a sample of her DNA be put inside the niche alongside her ashes.

Why a DNA sample?

DSIL and The Colonel was/is a genealogist. They both spent many years working together on their family histories. As we see on television and the Internet, DNA is now being used to discover new branches of family trees. DSIL wanted a tooth to be put inside the niche but when The Colonel asked about keeping one of her teeth before cremation he was told it would be cost prohibitive (a dental surgeon would have to be hired to do the extraction). The Colonel then asked about keeping a hair sample for DNA purposes and the funeral director said that was doable.

A few months before making our trip to Key West, The Colonel purchased a metal capsule, put it on a wooden base and began getting things together to put inside the capsule which would be be placed in the niche. Inside the capsule is a little urn of DSIL's ashes, her hair sample, a condensed life story (written by DSIL), one of her business cards and a small bottle of tiny fossils (DSIL was a member of the local fossil club).

In February, Yam and Spud accomplished phase one of ash spreading per DSIL's final wishes. They went to the "Happiest Place on Earth" and surreptitiously left behind a small amount of their aunt's ashes.

The Colonel, Yam, Spud, My Favorite-Father-In-Law, My Favorite-Mother-In-Law and I headed to Key West (The Colonel, Yam and I had not been back there in 16 years) to complete the remaining phases of the ash spreading and interment.

The Colonel's parents drove down in their own car and we drove down in ours but we all arrived on Thursday, June 1st. Yam and Spud arrived that day too but they chose to take the Key West Express that left from Ft. Myers Beach earlier that morning. After a 3-1/2 hour boat ride they docked in Key West.

We stayed in a house that was perfectly located, within walking distance to all of Key West's Old Town. We were just one block off of Duval Street. The Louisa House was beautiful. We used the pool every day. We had forgotten how humid Key West can be and the pool was a delicious respite from the sweaty stickiness.

DSIL's friend Dianne and her boyfriend came to Key West to attend the interment and help spread some ashes. It was the first time The Colonel and I had met Dianne and her boyfriend. They are very nice and easy to talk to. We had dinner with them the first evening we were in Key West. The next day would begin the remaining phases of interment and ash scattering.

The Colonel, his parents, Yam, Spud and I had breakfast the next morning at the World Famous Banana Cafe. It was just down the street from the Louisa House and the breakfast was very delicious.

It was then time to head to the Key West cemetery for the interment (phase two). We were clad in Hawaiian shirts. DSIL always wore an Hawaiian shirt when she dressed up. Dianne and her boyfriend met us at the cemetery, also in Hawaiian shirts.

The interment ceremony was low key. There were a few chairs set up in front of a small table draped in plush material. The Colonel placed the metal capsule and flowers on the table.

Anyone could stand and say a few words if they wished. My Favorite-Father-In-Law was the first to stand. He tearfully spoke of his special relationship with his daughter.

I stood next and said a few words about how DSIL was like a true sister to me and that I had been blessed to have had her in my life. Finally, Dianne spoke. She had said some lovely things about DSIL. They had been travel companions throughout the United States and Europe for some years.

No one else stood up to speak. It was time to have DSIL's capsule placed inside her niche. Two cemetery workers got onto a platform that would be raised to the top of the columbarium. DSIL's niche was at the very top, left corner. When she called to purchase her niche a couple of years ago, she asked to have the one that was closest to the sunset and she got. Now the sextant of the cemetery tells others about her call/story. She made it on the list of notable grave site/stories of the Key West Cemetery. She would have loved that! DSIL also wanted the topmost niche because she wanted people to have to now look up to her. She was 4'10" and always had to look up to others her entire life.

Once The Colonel handed the capsule and flowers to the cemetery workers they raised the platform up to the niche. One of the workers placed the capsule and the flowers inside the niche and then began to seal it up.

It was then time to replace the marble cover that had DSIL's bronze plaque (designed by DSIL) attached to it.

(The sextant told us that this is the only plaque in the cemetery with a Death's Head on it)

In her happy place...phase two complete.

Phase three of DSIL's final wishes took place shortly after the cemetery visit. We chartered a boat from Captain Karen of Venus Charters and had her take us to Boca Grande Key...about 9 miles west of and an hour from Key West (DSIL had wanted her ashes scattered at Woman Key, but the weather that day did not allow it but Captain Karen said that Boca Grande Key was a viable option).

The family boarded the boat with lunch, snorkel gear, sunscreen, hats, towels and most importantly DSIL's ashes. Captain Karen expertly piloted her boat to Boca Grande Key and anchored just off shore. When we got off the boat the water was about thigh high. The Colonel's parents stayed on the boat.

The Colonel, Yam, Spud and I waded to the beach of Boca Grande Key and walked towards the point with a lone coconut palm on it and began spreading DSIL's ashes.

After we spread the ashes, we sat down to lunch on the gorgeous beach. Yam and Spud snorkeled after lunch (They did not wait an hour after eating...gosh, did that make me a bad mom? Heck, like I said, the water was only, at most, waist deep).

The Colonel and I walked the beach and floated in the clear, warm waters off the key and talked with Captain Karen. The Colonel's parents had their lunch on the boat and enjoyed the views.

We were at Boca Grande Key for just over an hour before it was time to head back to Key West. The ride back was just as beautiful as the ride there. We got back to the Louisa House around 3 pm and texted Dianne and her boyfriend to meet us around 5 pm at Mallory Square to complete phase four of DSIL's final have her ashes spread at Mallory Square.

Five O'clock found us all at Mallory Square which was not yet crowded...the perfect time to spread ashes.

Once the final phase, phase four was accomplished, we all went to eat dinner at El Meson de Pepe for some delicious, authentic Cuban food. After dinner we went back to Mallory Square to watch all of the street performers during Key West's Sunset Celebration.

The Colonel had been relieved and pleased that the "Business End" or reason for our visit to Key West...the interment and spreading of DSIL's ashes...had been accomplished and to her wishes. He had worked for months to ensure all moving parts were in order.  The Colonel also wanted to have all phases completed before the following day, which would have been her 57th birthday.

It was a somber reason to make a family trip to Key West but we were happy that the remainder of DSIL's immediate family, all six of us, were able to be together again.