For being 6.5 months pregnant my sister was quite a “trooper” (as my mother would have affectionately called her). While in Tahiti we decided that my mother’s final resting place would be on a “bed” of coral in the reef somewhere. My mother had come to my sister in a dream several weeks earlier and requested this, apparently. The burial reef was the reef near our over-water bungalow on the island of Moorea. It wasn’t quite swimming near – it was more like small outboard motor near, but we didn’t have a motor. We didn’t have a boat either. I was not going to risk swimming that distance with my pregnant sister.
After some unsuccessful searching I found a solution. I was able to convince the pool guy to let us use the resort's economy style kayaks for half the day so we could complete our mission. I found out later that the 30 minute time limit for renting kayaks was put in place because the kayaks take on water and sink after 30 minutes. But first we had to do a practice round. Our plan was to be underwater and empty the contents of the blue urn onto some part of the reef itself – like a “bed” of coral.
My sister had never been in a kayak. I asked if she was experienced with snorkeling. "A little bit," she said. I was really worried. I was worried because I had a scene in my mind. I had a scene in my mind of the worst-case scenario. The kayak had no way for us to attach a rope to it so that we could hold on to it while we were snorkeling, and we didn’t want to ask anyone else to go out on this excursion with us. That would have been awkward. We wanted to do it alone. I imagined that the kayak would be swept from my grasp by the wind that was strangely strong on that day, and I would be forced to drag my pregnant sister back to shore across a large expanse of very deep water separating our bungalow from the reef. I had no idea what it would be like snorkeling with a pregnant woman! Would she be slightly more buoyant or would she sink like a rock? What if we dropped the urn in the deep water? What if the ashes clouded up the water and we couldn’t see anything and then a shark came by? What if she couldn’t get out of the kayak? What if she couldn’t get back in? Even without all of these considerations there are so many things that could go awry considering the deeply emotional task we were taking on.
Aside from our kayak taking on quite a bit of water we had good fortune with our practice run and good fortune during our burial. With our masks and snorkels we took turns holding the kayak while the other would be underwater reaching into the urn and placing her remains on the reef amongst the corals, giant clams, and the starfish. We laid the little blue urn next to a large bed of coral and almost immediately a school of tiny blue fish – the same color as the urn began to surround it and hover near it as if protecting it. We laid a flower wreath around the urn as it lay underwater and my sister climbed back into the kayak with only a little bit of physical awkwardness. We had done what we came for.
As our bags were being picked up on our last day in Tahiti I was doing some last minute packing which included using an iron to dry some underwear that had been washed and were not quite dry. I didn’t want them to get weird inside my luggage so I was pressing them with a hot iron. My sister got a ride up to the front of the resort to wait for our transport while I finished up. After I dried my underwear sufficiently I packed them away and ran off to meet our shuttle. I sat down on the bench seat inside the van hurriedly and slightly out of breath next to my patiently waiting sister.
She asked me, “How did it go under there?”
I looked at her quizzically and replied, “Under where?"
“Exactly” she said.