Mary Decker Calisti was one of Michele Burk's oldest and closest friends.
Mary has lived in Anchorage Alaska for over 18 years but that is no distance when friendships are kept.
Mary wanted to share her experiences when she traveled to be part of the memorial service for Michele and the special time when Michele's ashes were given up to the Pacific Ocean not far from where Michele grew up in the South Shores area of San Pedro.
As long as Mary lives, she will hear Michele's voice and know what Michele would have talked to her about, when things come up in Mary's future.
True friendships are so rare for too many of us these days, but the friendship Mary and Michele share will carry on, and on, and on.
Mary wants to share some experiences she was part of, during her visit to San Pedro where she participated in warm, caring, and thoughtful events surrounding how and where Michele was laid to rest.
So here below, is Mary's account of the weekend we all said farewell to Michele's physical presence.
I need to share with you some special events of my “Michele/San Pedro” trip. When people have asked me how the trip was, I have only been able to respond that it was amazing and in some ways miraculous. They’ve seemed pretty surprised by that response, knowing the purpose of my travels, and many of them having experienced how very broken up I have been the last few weeks. I also know how many emails we all get, and how time consuming they can be, so I tried to keep this missive brief……
As most of you know, I was apprehensive about staying at a hotel by myself. Plus, I was just a tiny bit concerned about the trip and my safety in general since it was going to be so emotionally draining for me – losing my best friend, Michele, and all.
Well, when I went to get my rental car at the Long Beach airport, staring at the door as I was walking in was a co-worker from my company’s Seattle office, PJ!!!! He and his girlfriend were going to take a few days and do some fun stuff around So Cal, it sounded like. It was pretty amazing to me that there I was, travelling from Anchorage, and there was PJ, travelling from Seattle, and meeting up at little old Long Beach airport.
So then I get my car which was a lot like Michele’s (a Toyota Avalon – and Michele’s was a Toyota Camry – and they were the exact same color!). After getting over THAT surprise, I got out the directions that Michele had sent me last year for our 35-year reunion to get from the LB Airport to Pedro without going on the freeways. (After driving on the Alaska roads for 18 years, I just don’t ever want to deal with the California freeways and all of their related craziness!!)
I ended up staying at the Crowne Plaza – San Pedro after calling them three times to check out their accommodations. However, I didn’t actually make the reservation until I talked with Nancy. Nancy was a grandmotherly sounding woman who, after hearing my safety concerns and about the purpose of my trip, put me on the secured 10th floor because a special key was needed to just get on the floor. When I checked into the hotel, I had another pleasant and re-assuring “sign” in that my room number was 1008 (my birthday!!!, October 8).
I had asked Nancy if there was anyway I could meet her when I got to Pedro because she had been so very helpful and kind, but she responded, “No, honey, I won’t be here.” So I asked if she worked some kind of special schedule and, again, if there was anyway I could at least greet her briefly – and she again said, “No, I won’t be here.” I’m thinking at that point (being the spiritual creature that I am), that perhaps I am talking to an angel (yeah, right….like God would care enough about me to send an angel to take care of my hotel reservations!)
As I was standing at the front desk, checking in, I decided that I had nothing to lose, so I asked the front desk person if I could speak with Nancy in reservations. She told me that there has never been a Nancy in reservations at the hotel as far as she knew, nor did she know of any Nancy on the 800 reservation line (she even searched on the employee list on the computer). The next morning, I chatted with the lady in the gift shop and after determining that she knew just about everything and everyone in the hotel, I asked her about Nancy too. She said there was no employee anywhere in the hotel named Nancy, nor could she remember a Nancy from the past either.
It seemed I finally had my very own “angel story” which made me VERY happy because I have yearned to have my own, and very obvious (at least to me), angelic event my whole life!
There were other things that happened during the trip that were rather transformational, such as my thoughts about cremation versus burial. Per Michele’s request, her ashes were scattered in the ocean right between South Shores (which is the neighborhood Michele grew up in) and Pt. Fermin where Michele spent many hours for her Girl Scout activities and for other numerous parties and picnics throughout her 54 years. The day was PERFECT, the ocean was calm, the cabin-cruiser boat was gorgeous, and Captain Art was an older gentleman who did a very respectful and lovely service. The whole event was much more beautiful and moving than many of the funerals I had attended in churches throughout past years. And now whenever I go home to Pedro, I can just park my car at Pt. Fermin and gaze at the Pacific Ocean (perhaps during a lovely sunset) and remember my beloved friend, “Michele, my Belle.”
With fondest regards, Mary
For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, or where we are – high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean – nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us. Romans 8: 38 & 39, the Living Bible.
(October 28, 2008)