Stealing Joy


Debra and Meg sat in silence as they watched the seagulls hover above the clear blue water and then dive into it with perfect precision. The wind carried traces of laughter from children playing nearby, while their harried parents corralled them into their arms one by one, in an effort to pack up and leave.  Soon they would be alone and would be able to complete the task at hand, without prying eyes.

The coolness of the sand calmed the storm of emotions raging inside of them. It had been a month since their best friend from childhood moved on to what they had no choice but to believe was a better place; but it didn’t make them miss her any less. She was 65 when she lost her last fight with cancer. She’d beat it twice before, but everyone could see this time around she was tired of fighting, and merely holding on for those that loved her. So when her two best friends told her she didn’t have to hang on for them, and that they would take care of her daughter, she listened, and passed away peacefully in her sleep one night.

“The sun is about to set.” Meg stood, wrapping the rainbow colored quilt tighter around her small frame. Joy had given it to her almost five years ago, and Meg remembered teasing her about how tacky she thought it was that it contained so many colors. Meg claimed to have accepted the quilt only because she didn’t want to hurt Joy’s feelings.  It had instantly become her most prized possession after Joy passed away and now she rarely left home without it.

“Are you sure we’re doing the right thing?” Debra had always been the voice of reason in the group. And even though she knew there was no stopping Meg once her mind was made up, she had to try once more. “It’s not too late you know, to reconsider.”

“To reconsider what, Deb?” Meg kept her back to her friend. “We should just break our promise to Joy?”

Debra stood, wiping the sand from the back of her jeans. “You know I didn’t mean that. I meant we could try to talk to Lisa again. Get her to understand how important this was to her mother.”

Meg looked at Debra who was now standing directly beside her.

“We tried that already, remember?” Meg bent down and picked up the bag that held the contents of the very thing they were discussing.

Debra sighed in defeat as she removed the scarf from her head, allowing the wind to blow through her salt and pepper colored curls. She knew there was no arguing with Meg, especially when she was right. Meg had always been stubborn, but that was part of the reason why they loved her so.

They’d all but begged Lisa to allow them to fulfill Joy’s dying wish of having her ashes scattered into the ocean. The beach had always been the one place Joy felt at peace when the cancer returned. But Lisa denied their request, stating that she couldn’t bear to part with her mother’s ashes.

In Meg’s mind, Lisa had left them with no choice. Getting old was like living through a second childhood: no one ever listened to what you have to say, even when you were right. Their backs were against the wall, but they had no intention of staying that way.

Earlier that day they’d gone to visit Lisa under the pretense of wanting to apologize for their initial request to take their friend’s ashes. Meg made Debra go into the kitchen to help Lisa prepare a light lunch for them, so she would be left alone without fear of interruption while switching out the urns. She hated to see her friend sitting on the shelf, being displayed for all to see. That wasn’t how Joy wanted her ashes to spend the rest of eternity. Meg took the urn filled with Joy’s remains and replaced it with an urn that contained ashes from a fire Deb burned the night before.

“Are we ever going to tell her the truth?”

“Maybe one day,” Meg said, taking Debra by the hand.

Debra squeezed Meg’s hand, signaling she was done trying to talk her out of doing what they’d come to do. “Come on, the sun is about to set.”

They waded into the ocean until the water was knee deep. Meg held back tears as she removed the top from the urn. Meg cleared her throat, and wiped away the one tear that had fallen. She poured out the remains and watched the cloud of ash as it was slowly mixed and dissipated within the water. “Rest well, Joy.”

“And don’t do anything too fun in Heaven until we get there,” Debra added, trying to lighten the mood.

They’d kept their promise, their friend was finally at rest now, and in the end, that was all that mattered.

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