On the Saturday between Christmas and New Year’s, our family attended a celebration of a different sort than the typical holiday party. We attended a celebration of the life of Doris Rustad, Steve’s mom who passed away last February.

Although it might be somewhat unusual to wait 10 months to hold a commemorative service, it made perfect sense under the circumstances and I think was actually an inspiration by Steve’s sister who did all the planning. By waiting until the Christmas break, family members who had to travel from points north and east could all convene in San Francisco.

You see, although Doris raised her family in Southern California and spent the last few years of her life in Washington State, she always said that San Francisco was one of her favorite cities so that was selected as the location where her ashes would be scattered.

But where in San Francisco would be the most appropriate keeping in mind that we’re not talking about spreading pixie dust but cremated human ashes – Coit Tower, top of the Mark, off the side of a cable car or off Fort Point into the ocean?

Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprising when you consider how cash-strapped the government is these days, disposing of cremated remains in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area requires submitting an application for a Special Use Permit and a $400-$1,000 fee. Doris was a very petite lady; I’m sure $400 would cover it.

But what a waste of money. How to scatter the ashes became incidental to the real purpose of the day: celebrating her 90 years. It was decided that all the family members would convene at the Cliff House – certainly and iconic SF location – for lunch followed by a short memorial service at the Palace of Fine Arts.

A sense of peace at the Palace of Fine Arts

It could not have been a more beautiful day to be in San Francisco and honor the memory of Doris. The 18 family members stood in a circle under the center dome feeling the warmth of the sun in an almost cathedral-like setting; reciting the Lord’s Prayer and sharing memories about her energy, determination, artistic talent, appreciation of quality, and intelligence, I felt that she would have been very pleased.

I don’t know if loved ones look down from heaven, but if they do, Doris was smiling.