Monday was my birthday. Usually I do not really care about my birthday, and to me turning 41 is not necessarily a big deal. It was a weird birthday though. I was still in a way glowing from the feeling of how beautiful the celebration for Angele was, while getting everything ready for her cremation. But also it was weird since Angele - the one that used to care - is not around anymore.
That also made me realize that there is a year ahead of many firsts. This was my first birthday without her. There will be a first day of school of the kids; the first Christmas as a family of three. First new year, a first holiday, the first birthdays of the kids. And many more firsts; events and occasions where her presence will be missed...
Angele's Celebration of Life last Saturday was a truly amazing gathering. I will dedicate a full post to everyone that helped out in making this a reality (it's a massive list!) but simply wow, what a day it was. It was freaking hot, but other than that it was just beautiful. Like she would have wanted.
Lovely speeches, great music, a mix of emotions of laughter, tears, sadness, and joy. Drinks and food, desert, and our children dancing the night away till the very last song!
Before we arrived in Mosta we all said our goodbyes in the mortuary, with the children giving their last kiss to Angele. During the celebration they put their drawings on the coffin, and when I asked Jessie the next day if she liked the party and which part she liked most, she told me that drawing her "rainbow sunflower" was the best part.
And then, yesterday, we had to do the final bit - her cremation. Since there is still no facility in Malta for this, we had to fly to Sicily. I sat in one of the first rows and the woman next to me was amazed with how many people I knew that boarded the plane. "It's like you know everyone" she said. When I explained the reason and the fact that yes, there were 18 more family members on the flight, we had a nice conversation about single parenthood, death, mourning and the joys of life.
In the crematorium we had a large room for all of us where we could say our final goodbye to Angele's remains before she was wheeled away. Then we could see on a TV screen how the coffin was pushed into the oven which was still switched off, and we were told that I could come back in a few hours to come collect the urn with the ashes.
We had a wonderful lunch, I collected the ashes, some of us went for a swim in an ice cold beautiful river and then around midnight we flew back to Malta.
At the security at the airport in Catania I had an interesting short interaction. The urn was in my hand luggage and after it passed the scanner they came to ask me to open the bag and show what it was. I told them, it's an urn, thinking that would clarify it enough. "What's in there?" "My wife..." "Oh, ok, ok, ehm... continue!"
All in all it was a good day, with some beautiful moments. The ice cold refreshing cleansing in the river was really special for me, but I think the most significant moment for me was when we approached Catania in the morning. It was a bit windy, and literally the second before we touched down, there was a big gust of wind. The pilot instantly decided to abort the landing and we went full throttle back up into the sky for an extra circle over Catania. Angele loved to travel and fly, and to me this was just a little push she gave us - for a little thrill and to just be enjoying the flight for a little bit longer...