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  • Rain Bennett

A River Runs Through Us

Updated: Jun 3



I wasn’t ready for this. And I never would be.


But life, and death for that matter, wait for no one to be ready.


A couple of weeks ago I visited my mom for Mother’s Day weekend down at our river cottage in the community of Hickory Point, NC, just outside of a tiny town named Aurora. That part wasn't unusual.


I brought my daughter and son with me to get some pre-summer rivertime in, as well. That part, aside from it being my 10-month-old son's first trip there, wasn't unusual either.


What was unusual was not having my brother there, waiting anxiously for us to arrive, and welcoming us with a booming bellow that echoed across the Pamlico.


In fact he was with me, or part of him at least, but only my daughter and I knew.


We'd been talking for months, ever since he died last October, about the day that we'd take a canoe ride into the river that he grew up on—that we swam together in for 40 years—and spread Uncle Beau Beau's ashes into that tea-colored water that we loved so much.


It isn't fair that she had to do that. It isn't fair that she's had to have conversations about life and death too deep and complex for a four-year-old. But she's intelligent, so she asks about what happens in death. She asks about whether he was "buried up" or burned. Each question an equivalent gut punch as the previous.


But she's empathic, so she listens. And understands.


She loved her Uncle Beau and he loved her. Their bond was immediate and unbreakable and when I see her now with my son, Bishop, I see my brother in her.


So she's the one.


The Saturday before Mother's Day, and a few hours before a storm was set to darken the day even more, I came out of my room with a short-sleeved button-down shirt and my ball cap.


"Why are you so dressed up??" my mom asked.


It was a legitimate question since the day had been filled with fishing and water balloon fights and other river activities that require a minimal amount of clothing.


But to be fair, something didn't quite feel right about putting part of my brother's body to rest wearing my Lululemon tank top.


I told my mom what I intended to do as I walked out the door. I couldn't bear to talk about it with her. I just needed to do it.


So me and my incredibly intuitive and mature 4-year-old daughter loaded up into the canoe and headed out to the point.


There, we drifted farther and farther away from the land and into the mouth of the Pamlico Sound as we sat and held each other through our tears. We took turns spreading Beau's ashes in the river and talking about how much we missed him.


"He was my brother." I said.


"He was my uncle." she echoed.


We didn't talk much as I fought the current all the way back to our pier. And when we got back my mom was waiting for us. I could tell she had been crying, too.


We didn't talk about it anymore that night. We just ate our fried flounder dinner and watched a movie with some ice cream.


I wasn't even sure if it was real. I still am not.


But I know that I couldn't have done it—I can't do it—without her and I'm grateful every day that she got to know him as long as she did, even though their time together was cut tragically short. And the only way to keep it going is to keep her a part of his story, and him a part of hers.


We did that on this day.


And that river that ran throughout our lives will continue to run. Through births and deaths and everything in between. It will run on.




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