By Reba Phelps
My parents were never the conventional cookie-cutter type of parents. They didn’t really conform to the standards that society had pre-set for them. They were not bound by the confines of any tradition. I remember a few Thanksgiving Dinners that were fried fish and all of the non-traditional holiday fixings. There was not a turkey nor a pan of dressing to be found anywhere near our table that was set with store-brand paper plates and red Solo-cups.
They definitely marched to the beat of their own drum… a drum that was probably not shaped like a drum or even sounded like a drum.
This frame of mind was applied to everything in their colorful lives. So much so, that when my parents would have conversations about their funerals they had instructions that encompassed every detail that one could fathom.
My mother wanted to be cremated. She didn’t want flowers. She merely asked that people donate to the church instead of spending money on flowers that would soon perish. She wanted her ashes spread in the Bay of St. Louis on the Coast of Mississippi. Our parents briefly lived in the vicinity and often found much peace visiting the picturesque coastal town.
She did not want a headstone. This was one thing that gave me a little angst. My parents looked at everything on this earth as temporary and did not see the need to have a granite legacy left behind in their memory. They didn’t want a wake the night before. They were perfectly fine with opening the funeral home an hour before the service and letting everyone in.
Never in our wildest imaginations did we ever think we would need to use this information so quickly.
One night in April of 2011 I received the phone call that no child wants to be on the receiving end of…my mother unexpectedly passed away at home. She had been ill for two days and it was too much for her fragile health to endure.
All of the sudden I was faced with remembering the many conversations that we had as a family. My father helped fill in the blanks where we couldn’t. We received many family and friends. There were very few flowers, per her request. There was a cremation after her viewing.
It was just a beautiful celebration of life. Plain and simple.
Sometime had passed after the service and we were presented with my mom’s ashes. We knew exactly what to do with them. That was, until my brother called the powers that be in that picturesque coastal town. He was promptly told that we had to boat the ashes so many miles off shore and we had to have a biodegradable container. We could not merely spread them at sea.
Looking back, maybe we should not have been so ethical with obtaining permission. At this point we had no plan B. Months and months went by and we just couldn’t imagine where else she would want her ashes to spend their earthly days.
After much deliberation my father called the children to tell us that plan B would be a beautiful hilly area right outside of Ruston that my mother had always admired when they would drive to Arkansas. He really wanted to go about this alone.
Again, we let him march to the beat of his own drum.
Many years went by, eight to be exact, and I could not get this Ruston location off my mind. In 2019 I rode through Ruston on my way to Little Rock and I was determined to find the area where my mom’s ashes were spread.
I called my father, and he was adamant. “It’s just a big hill outside of Ruston, you cannot miss it.” Bearing those detailed directions in mind I just knew it would be like finding a needle in a haystack. As we were talking our conversation was interrupted by a work call. I chose to pullover while I talked so I would not miss this mysterious large hill.
While I was chatting on the phone I looked out the window I couldn’t help but notice the gigantic hill that engulfed the right side view of my car windows. This had to be without question the exact place. It was majestic. As majestic as a hill could be in Louisiana.
I sat in complete amazement. I truly could not understand how it took me eight years to get here. This is the closest thing we have to a gravesite for my mother. I expected many tears, but they never came. There was just an unexplainable peace. I slowly drove on the shoulder of the road for a short time admiring the grassy unmarked gravesite.
As I was resuming my trip I noticed there was a street sign with the words, “Paradise Point.”
My inquisitive nature got the best of me, so I called the Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Office to see how long that road had been named, “Paradise Point.”
After a few transfers and friendly voices, I was told it was named in 2013. Almost, exactly two years after my mom’s passing. It was so fitting and a peacefully gentle reminder that my mom was spending her time in paradise. In more ways than one.
“And he said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43.