The Poisoned Seed

Manor Park, Larchmont, NY

Umbrella Point is an idyllic setting in Manor Park on Long Island Sound in New York, twenty-five miles north of Manhattan. It remains the crown jewel that exemplifies Larchmont’s privilege and beauty.  Immaculately kept, always quiet and with spectacular views of sailboats, manicured grass, and infinitely climbable rocks on the waterline, it has remained largely unchanged for generations.

A long-time resident of the town and mother of three passed away nearby last year, and it was decided that her ashes would be spread at Umbrella Point.  For her, the park had been a long favorite sanctuary from a difficult life.  She told her three children that their father’s ashes were scattered here, which brought them some small solace during their lives.  This would be the right place to spend eternity. Location, location, location, a mantra upheld even in the afterlife.

The spreading of her ashes was a small affair.  The mother had experienced a lifetime of hardships and was socially withdrawn for the past twenty years.  Her family was her lifeline to the outside world. The mother’s daughter, one of her two sons and her grandson were in attendance.

It was at this occasion of the spreading of the mother’s ashes that the attending son, the oldest, decided to reveal a troubling secret that had been kept from the rest of the small family for most of their lives.

Ten years before, he was approached by an acquaintance whose family had owned a local funeral home.  They had cremated the son’s father some 40 years ago and informed him the ashes were never picked up after the services.  This was not uncommon, as some people are not equipped for the finality of retrieving and attending to the remains of their loved ones.  Clearly, the mother who now had three small children to raise alone was not up to that task.  This was yet another item on the list for the oldest son, who saw failure in his mother’s every breath and blamed her for his unhappiness for most of his life.

When the oldest son heard this news about the ashes, it presented him with a unique opportunity for unity within the family.  This hidden truth if managed properly could allow the family to all grieve as adults, and perhaps even to in some ways heal.  The grieving process was never properly addressed by the mother with her young children.  The death was a tragic event she was in no way prepared to handle, and her three children were far too young to understand how their lives were forever changed.  The loss of her husband and her inability to cope with it would be a filter through which all new experiences would pass, a poisoned seed in their little collective.

This opportunity raised by how to impart the unexpected news was a gift. It was a chance for the three children to all come together as adults and say a proper goodbye to a long-deceased father.  Unfortunately, the oldest son didn’t recognize this moment for what it was.  He saw it instead as a dark secret to be maintained and hidden from his siblings.  He confronted the mother, who did not display her best instincts and only thought of herself at this moment.  In her shame, she implored the son not to tell his siblings about the ashes.  So the oldest son took it upon himself to go and spread the ashes alone, thus perpetuating the original offense.

It would be easy to blame the mother until you see her life through her eyes.  Her husband’s death was tragic, the consequences overwhelming.  Although the family never fully healed the mother did the absolute best for each of her children, ensuring education, and maintaining a large home where they were never wanted for anything except that which remained unspoken: Closure.

It was at the moment of spreading the mother’s ashes in this same spot that the oldest son decided to share his secret decision and unburden himself with this knowledge that he’d had for a decade.  This compounded the moment exponentially and sealed the fate and direction of how the surviving children would experience the loss of their parents.  The poisoned seed of impotence had been allowed to thrive.