Twenty years ago, at sixty-four, my bipolar father died because of an accidental prescription drug overdose that managed his disorder. His brother and sister shared the disease and we believe Grandma had it, but she lived her life undiagnosed.
I remembered my father liked women. Naked women to be more specific. He had a stash of Playboy magazines and several Playmates of the Month plastered on the walls of the tiny bathroom attached to his office.
But even with his illness, he worked hard and achieved a small level of success. Enough success that when he retired, he’d planned to move to the Caribbean, live on a sailboat and travel where the wind took him. However, we weren’t clear if that vision included his family. My mother wasn’t having any of it, as the thought of living on a boat outside of Canada with her manic-depressive husband wasn’t at all appealing.
Fast forward twenty years. Lithium was the medication of choice for his disease; a heavy metal ingested daily to even out his neurotransmitters and other brain chemistry. But in large doses, Lithium is toxic. We think in a dementia-related senior moment, he doubled up on his dose, realized something was wrong and made it to an Emergency Room in Toronto. Hours later, the overdose compromised his kidneys and caused other organs to fail.
As per his wishes, we cremated him and shipped his remains to my brother and I in Vancouver. Since his sailing days were over, we decided to spread his ashes into English Bay.
We looked for an out-of-the-way beach that would be close enough for us to visit, but not trampled by beach-goers or stick-chasing dogs.
Together we drove to the end of the regular beach, parked in a tiny lot and walked on a narrow path further west, far away from the crowds. The beach was empty as the spring sun lit up the area, but a bracing wind blew in from the north. After walking for a few minutes, we found a secluded area filled with craggy rocks and washed up logs.
We staked out a spot and poured Dear Old Dad out of a black plastic bucket into the surf and sand. We stood for a few minutes, thinking about our time on this earth with our dad and missing him, regardless of how he lived his life.
As we walked back to the car, we passed a large sign on a metal pole we had neglected to notice on the way in.
“Caution, from this point on, the beach is clothing optional.”
My brother and I both laughed. We’d poured my father out on to Vancouver’s famous and very nude, Wreck Beach.
Unexpected but totally appropriate for the way he lived his life.
God Speed, Dad. We hope the view is everlasting!