A Dying Man’s Last Request
My biological father was an avid golfer. He always dreamed of playing the Pebble Beach Golf Course. He and another man wanted to play the course together, so they began to pool their savings in a big 5-gallon bottle kept at the other man’s house. When the bottle was full and they could afford to go, his “friend” took all the money and spent it.
My biological father, who lived on the East Coast, never got to fulfill his dream.
When he died, his wife told me after he had passed that his last request was that I would scatter his ashes on the Pebble Beach Golf Course.
GULP! Something that you may not know about me is that I tend to be a Rule Follower, and if I don’t like someone else’s rules I tend to change games—which is one reason I’m self- employed (my game, my rules)—but this request definitely fit into the Rule Breaker side of things. I figured that, if I fulfilled his last request, I would certainly be breaking several rules and, most likely, several laws.
I was torn. Badly.
Ultimately, blood proved thicker than mere rules and laws (and I have probably never in my life used the word “mere” in front of either of the words “rules” and “laws”).
I discussed my dilemma with My Beloved. She was no happier or comfortable with the request than I, and probably much less so, but she offered to come along to offer moral support. We both knew there was a chance that I would be caught and arrested, and if she was with me she could suffer a similar fate, but she wanted to come anyway, and woe be to the person who tries to tell her “no” when she sets her mind to something.
When the day came, we drove to Pebble Beach, becoming more anxious with each mile closer we’d gotten, too nervous to even enjoy the fantastic views on the way there.
We noted with growing concern that security vehicles and guards were everywhere. It’s like they had their own private army.
We scoped the perimeter like a couple on a secret mission. Actually, we were a couple on a secret mission. Piercing the perimeter looked like a really BAD idea.
Our nerves were on edge but we also noticed that along with the risk and “danger” an element of excitement and adventure began to creep in.
The theme song from the original Mission Impossible TV show kept running through my head. Seriously.
My Beloved put the clay urn full of ashes in her purse as we parked our car. We walked through the magnificent clubhouse with its main room that is so large that it has two HUGE and very impressive fireplaces.
The view was magnificent! We walked out the back of the clubhouse, across a patio with diners, down some steps and onto a large lawn area that led out to a stone edge, which marked the end of the lawn and the beginning of a small beach several feet below and the Monterey Bay.
The golf course’s 18th hole was to our left and near the stone wall. I don’t recall what separated the course from the lawn near the stone edge but it wasn’t much of an obstacle. Perhaps a rope.
We had much bigger obstacles to deal with. First, parties of golfers were very often either on the green making their final putts or on their way to it. I couldn’t just waltz onto it and start spreading ashes all over it.
But the biggest obstacle was that a security guard must have decided that we looked suspicious and began following us onto the long beautiful green lawn that gently sloped down toward the Bay.
Our hearts raced as we looked at each other, wondering what to do. We’d come too far to turn back now. In a whisper I suggested that we sit on the on the edge of the lawn at the rock edge right up against the 18th hole and try to look like sightseers.
The security guard hung back and off to our right about 20-25 feet and appeared to be cleaning his nails. Yeah, right!
I decided to lie down parallel to the golf course and up against it with my back facing the guard. My Beloved took out her camera and pretended to take pictures, gradually moving her body into a position that would perfectly obstruct the guard’s view. She reached into her purse and handed the urn to me. I placed it in front of me and covered it with a jacket.
But it became obvious that there was no way I was going to be able to walk onto the green without immediately drawing attention to myself, being stopped, and possibly arrested.
We did catch a lucky break in that a strong wind was blowing inland from the Bay, so if I could time the space between the golf parties just right, and if I could throw the ashes into the wind without being seen by golfers on the course, people in the clubhouse, diners on the patio, and the ever-present and attentive guard, the ashes would float onto the 18th green.
There were too many “IFs” for my taste, but it was the hand we’d been dealt so we’d try to play it.
The whole urn and ashes thing had kind of creeped me out, so I hadn’t opened the lid of the clay urn since it had been handed to me on the East Coast.
That proved to be a BIG mistake!
When I think of ashes, I think of those soft floaty things that gently float up from a campfire. So, when I reached into the urn I expected to feel kind of a soft, light powder.
My eyes must have gotten huge when I felt nothing even remotely resembling ashes!
It felt like a nearly solid mass with a consistency that was closer to sandstone than ashes. (It should be noted here that I was aware that what I was touching was the last physical remains of the man who was one of two humans responsible for bringing me into this world and that his remains should be treated with respect.)
Still, I was freaked out. It might have even been funny under other circumstances but, at the moment, laughter was about the furthest thing from my mind as I felt a surge of panic.
I groaned, then whispered the latest problem to My Beloved. She gave a startled expression followed by a shrug and a, “Well I guess you’re just going to have to deal with it” look that I knew so well.
But it was My Beloved who came up with the next tactic, whispering “I’ll distract the guard” as she picked up the camera and walked away.
I looked over my shoulder following her with my eyes and watching the guard out of my peripheral vision as I began feverishly scraping the contents of the urn with my fingernails, trying to loosen it all.
I waited for that hoped-for critical moment when everything aligned perfectly: The 18th green had no one on or near it, the guard was facing away, and the wind was gusting in from the Bay. I just had to hope that no one else walked onto the lawn and that everyone else was too far away to notice what I was up to.
The seconds turned to minutes, dragging on interminably, while I continued scraping the contents of the urn as My Beloved continued slowly walking to the other side of the lawn, pretending to take photos of the gorgeous scenery.
The guard had the choice of watching My Beloved to his right, turning his back on me, or vice versa. He chose her.
Just then the 18th green was clear, and I slowly and nonchalantly stretched my right arm high over onto the golf course as if I were stretching contentedly without a care in the world. As I did so I opened my hand and flicked the contents with my fingers. To my great relief and with substantial help from the wind they scattered over the 18th green. I did this several more times, never knowing if the next toss would end with my arrest, but lucking out every time.
I signaled to My Beloved when I was done, and we reversed the process, getting everything back into her purse.
As I stood up I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
The two successful secret agents soaked in our success, and even took a victory lap of sorts. We walked into the clubhouse and sat in some beautiful chairs. I ordered my biological father’s favorite drink, a Dirty Vodka Martini on the rocks, and My Beloved ordered a glass of champagne.
We toasted him.
Then we toasted what we’d accomplished together.
I don’t recall ever having a drink that I enjoyed more.
Just outstanding. That proves that if the spouses understand each other, no task is impossible.
Thank you, Harbans. Yes, a couple that understands each other and works as a team can accomplish incredible things together and enjoy doing it.
No… you don’t really understand ‘ashes’ until you have had to scatter them somewhere you ‘shouldn’t’, do you? Lovely post.
LOL! No. And I didn’t know I didn’t know until I knew! ;-D! Thank you!
I didn’t either. 🙂
I love that you two did this Russ, and love every word of this story
Thank you, beth. I’m grateful you are in my life.
What a great thing to do ! And with your accomplice! I love the story rule/law breaking and all. 🙂
LOL! Yes, we were real scofflaws that day!
Thanks for sharing this story Russ…I love the way you told it!
I appreciate your kind comment. Thank you!
What a lovely story and a lovely tribute.
Thank you for taking the time to say so, Quiall. I appreciate it.
What a brilliant story… but how could they arrest you for that, its not as though you wanted to dig a grave on the green… ?… I loved this story Russ
Thank you, bulldog. Good point! I didn’t even technically trespass onto the golf course, though my biological father did.
A beautiful story Russ and sure deserved that drink afterward! I’m a little miffed that his friend spent all the money that they had saved together.
Thank you, Diane. I imagine my biological father was none-too-pleased with his so-called friend either.
Awesome! I was at the edge of my seat. You have a wonderful wife. I’m glad she went with you. I bet you will never forget that day. Thank you so much for sharing. Excellent story telling.
I appreciate your kind comment, Shian. I do have a wonderful wife. She is a big reason I’m a grateful man. We made a beautiful and fun memory that day.
Awww, you guys sure did.
What a team. Sorry to hear the other guy took away your father’s dream. Nice of you to stretch yourselves to fulfill his dream and let him rest on the 18th green. 🙂 What a story. What memories.
Yes, another reminder as to the importance of choosing one’s friends wisely–or at least of being the one to hold the money. ;-D! Thank you for your kind comment.
You are welcome.;-)
Oh my this made me think of my grandparents and my parents
I hope they were happy thoughts, Joanne.
What a wonderful (and well-written) account of your “mission,” Russ! Are you collecting these fascinating stories into a book?
Hi, John. Thank you for your kind comment and question. Yes, my 3 non-fiction books, “From the Heart of a Grateful Man,” “Reflections of a Grateful Man,” and my soon-to-be released “Slices of Life” anthology featuring the selected stories of 16 writers all include such stories. They can be bought on Amazon.com or directly from me. If bought directly from me they will be autographed.
What a beautiful post and such an honorable thing to do. This was quite a test in many ways and I am glad that this turned into an adventure…a mission for the two of you! Congratulations on your success!
Thank you, Mrs. P. It was indeed a test, adventure, mission, and success. It could have had a very different ending and I’m grateful for the outcome.
Reblogged this on A Grateful Man and commented:
This is one of my favorite posts. I’ve posted it before but wanted newer followers and readers to have the opportunity to read it.
I read it again. And love what you and your wife did. Love it.
Thank you, Colleen. Sometimes one just has to do what they’ve gotta do.
You are a good son and your Beloved is a wise and faithful friend. Charley and I traveled from the East Coast to Pebble last April to fulfill his dream of playing the course. This post made me so happy that we made the journey. Did you know that at sunset each evening, a lone bagpiper comes across the course at Spanish Dunes Pebble Beach and plays, among other songs, Amazing Grace? I think your father is very happy.
Thank you, Clare. I believe you’re right that he is probably happy, and like to think so. I’m glad Charley and you went to Pebble and he got to play there. I live about 90 minutes away so if you ever come out here again I’d love to meet you/the two of you. I enjoy listening to bagpipes being played and love Amazing Grace, especially when played on the ‘pipes.
We’ve been to California a few times (my cousin lives in Exeter) and I would love to see you in person next time. But the offer is reciprocal. If you’re ever in New England I’ll expect a visit from you. Clare
Thank you, Clare. I was born in Beverly, MA but have only been back to New England twice in the last 54 years. I loved it when I went though. I don’t know where Exeter is. My City of Campbell is surrounded on three sides by San Jose, and we’re about an hour’s drive from San Francisco.
We went from San Francisco to Monterey in April. It was lovely and we hope to return in the near future. I live about an hour and a half from Beverly, MA.
This is one of my favorites and in looking at the date, I realized I had a similar mission just a month later when my dad passed. It is strangely forbidding and honorable to spread a loved one’s ashes. Once you get past the forbidden part, it really does feel good to make things right for that loved one.