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Prologue: The Beach...

Jane Morse


Times Photo --
JOANNA B. PINNEO

Jane Morse finds St. Pete Beach a peaceful place to reflect upon her past traumas and her future hopes and dreams.



By ROY PETER CLARK
Special To The Times

On the evening of March 3, 1994, Jane Morse carried a cardboard box filled with her husband's ashes to the southern tip of St. Pete Beach. It was exactly one year to the day, almost the exact hour, 10 p.m., that he died. She had recorded it in her journal. While most of her journal entries are warm and breezy, that day she could manage only subject, verb, and date: "Mick died 3/3/93."

Even in her grief, she was impressed by the divisibility of those three numbers: the third day of the third month in the third year of the ninth decade. It must mean something. Mick was born in '39 and died in '93. Like those numbers, their marriage had been turned around and divided.

Mick had left her with three children. They approached her now, with other family members and friends, and dug handfuls of ashes from the beige cardboard box. Jane marveled at how soft the ashes felt through her fingers, a little grainy in spots, but mostly chalky and fine, smoother than the sand on the beach.

"Can you believe this is Dad?" said her daughter Meghan. "I hope he's happy."

Jane watched from the concrete pier as the little band took what was left of Michael David Morse, said their goodbyes, and scattered his remains into the sea. Unlike her husband, Jane Morse had come to St. Petersburg not to die, but to live. She stood there not as a victim, but as a survivor of a life-changing experience that she was now ready to share with others. Hers was a journey of trust, betrayal and redemption that carried her family across three continents and cost her thousands of tears.

Her eyes were moist now as she put her arm around her daughter Erin. The tears came, not just from crying, but from the cold wind off the Gulf of Mexico. She was standing at the place called Pass-a-Grille. It was usually a fun spot where, legend has it, pirates landed to grill their meat and drink their rum. Just down the street Jane could see the party lights of the Hurricane Lounge, where tourists had replaced the pirates. Jane would come here often. She and her friend Karen won third place in a dance contest.

But tonight there would be only longing and regret, and memories of a day, just five years ago, when her husband, the father of her children, would utter three little words that shook Jane's soul.

Next: Chapter 1, Mick and Jane


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