The smell of the sea and tears-tasting salt water still cling to me as I dress/undress for bed. My skin is red where the sun kissed it a little too long, and my hair is whipped to a frenzy by the ocean breeze. There, on a promontory at St. Andrews-by-the-sea, I saw a monument. Rising up from the bank along the high-tide mark, it was a celtic cross, looking out over the Atlantic Ocean in Passamaquoddy Bay on the Bay of Fundy. I stopped the car on a whim and got out to read what was printed on the base of the cross.
My grandmother wanted her whole life to see the Bay of Fundy. She wanted her ashes tossed into the ocean at high tide, so she could ride through the brine back to Ireland. I tried, but couldn’t quite get her there, so I emptied her urn and Grandpa’s urn on a rocky shore in Nova Scotia. She’d still get to Ireland.
Earlier today, I’d dipped my feet in the Bay of Fundy at Saint John and thought of my grandmother. I thought of her laughing, of the wind lifting her uneven curls, of the cold water splashing up over her weird bent-together toes. I pictured her holding my hand there on the end of a dock, staring out into the bay whose waters rise and fall, rise and fall on a grander scale than any tides, anywhere in the world.
Standing in front of the cross, the tides were lapping away, leaving tiny runnels of receding tidewater. This place at St. Andrews-by-the-sea is called Katie’s Cove. That was her name.
And this is what was written on the cross:
In memory of those men, women, and children who died of hunger and disease while fleeing the potato famine in Ireland and lie buried on Hospital Island lovingly remembered by their descendants who persevered and helped build this great nation.
So I couldn’t take you to the Bay of Fundy then, Nama. But I think maybe today, we walked together on that beach.