Eagles and Ashes


I have wanted to write a post about my dad for quite some time but was never able to wrap my head around what I wanted to say. For those who did not know my dad, he was a hematologist/oncologist who was deeply loved by his patients. He was a man who dealt in black and white. Never grey. We did not usually see eye to eye on many issues but I never doubted that he loved me and my mom and my siblings.  He was the person who took me fishing and backpacking and camping. He had a vast knowledge of so many things that it sometimes blew my mind what was stored in his head.

Dad loved the outdoors and wildlife. He loved fly fishing and tieing flies.  The last few years of his life were very difficult and he wasn’t able to spend the time doing the things he loved.  When he died in March of 2012, he was cremated with a fly in his pocket. At his funeral we put his ashes in a fishing creel. At the altar was the creel, an American flag (he served as a navy doctor for 11 years) and a tin cup in order to toast the opening day of trout season. During mass I looked out a window and in the distance (hundreds of yards away) was a group of trees. In the trees was a large bird of some kind. I decided that was dad saying all was good. My dad has continued to make visits over the last few years and it is always in the form of a bald eagle.

The next time I needed a visit was on the way to the doctors to get my drain removed after breast cancer surgery. Scott and I were driving to the clinic and an eagle came up from the side of the road and flew right in front of the car.  I was really worried about getting the port removed but felt better after seeing the eagle. I have had several eagle sightings since then. I was thinking a lot about him one day at work and when I walked outside to go home, there was an eagle flying in circles above me. When Scott and I were on our way to Iceland for a vacation, an eagle flew by the ferry we were riding. I have taken that route many, many times over the last 15+ years and have never seen an eagle near the ferry.

Last week, Scott and I took a trip to Montana to drop some of his ashes at Hubbard’s Yellowstone lodge. My dad loved spending time at this lodge and we thought he would like us to leave a bit of him in this beautiful place. On our drive there, I saw an eagle about an hour into our trip. Scott said “Well, there is your dad.”

When we got to the lodge, we walked around and I decided the best place to sprinkle his ashes would be the lake.  The lake is home to a pair of eagles.SLS_3008

Scott rowed me out in the middle and dropped anchor. I started crying before I sprinkled the ashes but I wasn’t crying because I was sad. I was crying because I was glad to have the opportunity to take him to a place he loved. A place he went to  fish and relax and enjoy the outdoors.

I said a few words and sprinkled the ashes. A sense of calm came over me.  SLS_2980


I had a fishing rod and casted a few times in honor of dad (I am new to fly fishing having just learned at a Casting for Recovery Retreat. I forgot to bring clippers and didn’t have a way to release the fish if I caught one.)


Scott rowed me back to shore. I borrowed some clippers and spent the next 2.5 hours fishing from the dock.



While I was fishing, an eagle dove into the lake, not far from where dad’s ashes were dropped and caught a fish. It was a magnificent sight.  I never did catch a fish that day. But the act of casting brought me close to my dad.  I now have a place to go and visit him and fish.  A place he loved.

I look forward to the next eagle sighting. It will be Dad checking in to let me know he is good and everything will be alright.