When we first set out on our family trip through four national parks, we did it with the intention of not only having fun together, but of laying my baby brother’s ashes to rest. I wanted to honor my brother, Scott Anthony. I wanted to begin this pilgrimage somewhere very special, and there was no doubt in my mind that this trip would be meaningful for not only my family but my brother too. We began our journey in Zion, and this was where I want to remember my brother’s first, of many destinations, that he will rest for all of his days.

Through four national parks, our travels to lay Scott to rest took us to the Narrows in Zion; the Grand Tetons with a visit to Phelps Lake in Wyoming; Ousel Falls in Big Sky Montana; Trout Lake Wyoming in Yellowstone; Targhee Creek in Idaho; and my personal favorite, where I had a special connection to Scott, Navajo Canyon in Lake Powell. Coping with my brother’s loss was almost impossible, but through this trip, I was able to start healing.

“All 7 and we’ll watch them fall. They stand in the way of love and we will smoke them all. With an intellect and a savior-faire. No one in the whole universe will ever compare.” – Prince

woman spreading ashes in stream brother and sister

Losing My Brother

I woke up and it already felt like any other day, except the sun was beaming through the slats of the drapes stronger than usual. As though the universe was screaming, “Wake up! Wake up!” I paused for a moment then it dawned on me: it was November 7. Seven was my number, “our” number. I was born on December 7, and my baby brother Scott was born on October 7. November 7 kept the two of our birthdays connected, but I never imagined how significant that date would later become. 

We considered ourselves quite close even with years apart. Scott was like my first baby, the little brother who taught me how to become the mother I am today. And as much as I was ready to press the snooze button, it was time to rise and shine and take care of my four other babies. 

I had a feeling I would hear from him today.

I was his “Sissy” so our conversations were often and we shared a sense of humor only a few would understand. But there was absolutely no way I would ever have predicted earlier that morning that the conversation would be my worst nightmare come true: Scott was gone.

woman hiking in zion happy family

Hearing the Unimaginable

Around mid-afternoon, I received a direct message on Instagram. A direct message with a note that would alter my life, and the life of my husband, and children for the rest of our lives. The moment I saw the words, “Danielle, This is Scott’s roommate…” it didn’t take but a second to comprehend what was about to follow. It was right there in black and white. That all-encompassing dreaded call in the middle of the night that every parent fears.

I immediately collapsed to the ground, and the world came to a screeching halt. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t remember how. Scott battled with opiate addiction. In my heart, as much as I begged, pleaded, and tried to get him to listen to me I knew it wasn’t a matter of if, but when. I just always thought there would be more time. More laughs, more love. The worst part, my brother did not want to die. But the truth is, when he died, I died too.

The last moment I ever spent with my beautiful baby brother with the most gorgeous blue eyes, and biggest heart imaginable, was at the coroner’s office. As much as it is a blur, I can’t close my eyes without remembering the haunting image. It’s important to remember, I was not the only one who lost someone very special. I still had to be brave, while mourning, and answering the hard questions for my family. But Scott was a force to be reckoned with. His untimely death needed to be celebrated both publicly and privately. After a beautiful gathering with friends and loved ones, Bobby and I knew we had to plan something very special with us and the kids.

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camping in zion national parkwoman at stream

Starting the Healing Process

And that’s when we came up with the idea of honoring Scott, by leaving it all behind, and visiting all of his favorite places to release his ashes back to the Earth where he can rest in peace for eternity. I grappled with the idea for a long time, but our connection is stronger than most. I knew in my heart this is exactly what he would have wanted me to do, especially with the kids along for the journey.

Because grasping, and then having to articulate the death of my brother was, and still is, one of the most gut-wrenching obligations I’ll ever face as a mother. Amidst feelings of disbelief and despair, I had to look my children in the eyes and tell them Uncle Scotty was gone. The healing and coping mechanisms of children dealing with death can be very different, so we wanted to keep the kids involved but in a positive way. So we shifted their focus by giving them an activity to assist with the celebration of Uncle Scotty’s life. 

family wading in river woman on boat

The Perfect Way to Say Goodbye

I mentioned earlier, our love for the number seven, and now it truly connected us. This makes perfect sense that the symbolism behind the number is of completeness and perfection (both physical and spiritual). If that doesn’t define us, I don’t know what does.

So there it was, the answer I was looking for. Together with the kids, we chose seven destinations Uncle Scott would want to be. It took over a year to muster up the courage to do this, but in two weeks, we managed to make it to six of his seven resting spots. I am saving the seventh for when I am with all those whom he loved the most. After, my plan is to create a “Map of Scott’s Journey” so those who feel inclined, can go, and visit him whenever they are in the need of peace, love, healing, and to be near Scott’s spirit.

“You care so much you feel as though you will bleed to death with the pain of it.”—J.K. Rowling

rays of light family on hike

Traveling For Scott

Over those two weeks, and across four national parks, I dedicated many posts across my social media platforms to my dear brother who I sorely miss. It’s a big part of my grieving and healing process, but I hope it will help others facing the same heartbreak.

Throughout this trip, I was overcome with a cornucopia of love and memories of my beloved brother mixed with tremendous grief that succumbs my soul thinking of just how important this monumental memorial and our family’s final goodbye truly was. But the truth is I was tasked with the honor and privilege of traveling for two hearts on this soul-searching journey. Being able to experience this passage with my family proved that an abundance of love and support can get you through the most difficult times.

Find other ways of dealing with grief on the City Girl Gone Mom Pinterest board.

maya angelou quotewoman at waterfall


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