By The Sea
You and me, you and me, oh how happy we’ll be!
When each wave comes a-rolling in
We will duck or swim,
And we’ll float and fool around the water.
Over and under, and then up for air,
Pa is rich, Ma is rich, so now what do we care?
I love to be besides your side, beside the sea,
Beside the seaside, by the beautiful sea!
(By the Beautiful Sea from the musical “For Me and My Gal” -Harold Atteridge/Harry Carroll 1914)
I love the ocean. I have previously written about my affinity for it and I am sure that I will write about it many more times. This year I enjoyed an unusually early ocean visit when I attended the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation’s Camp Widow East in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in April. Even before I got on the plane, I mentally planned out my long beach walks. In fact, the first things in my suitcase were my pink flip flops!
The lead-off day was warm and cloudy and by the time I hit the shoreline, the tide was almost at its lowest level for the day. The vast apron of wet, smooth sand was precariously exposed to the afternoon sun. It was vulnerable and broken bits of shells punctuated the gray mass. Once perfectly formed and home to a miniature form of sea life, each tiny vessel had been on a journey and now was making its final appearance at the end of its cycle. The waves kept spitting out these remnants and I reverently tried not to step on them with my feet. Meanwhile, tiny new, whole shells peeked out from the soggy layer that was usually insulated by water. Their protective coatings were tightly closed as the new mollusks were hesitantly starting their life cycle. They were barely noticeable to the casual walker, but I saw them.
Inside the resort, a very brave group of people was gathering in anticipation of a weekend of healing and hope. Courageous widows and widowers from all over the country and from Canada and Ireland came to open up their hearts and souls to another kindred spirit in the hopes of making a connection and thus awakening their inner strength. Some were just starting on their grief journey and they were fragile and tentative. They let their salty tears flow freely, without shame, knowing that they would be pulled up from the strong undertow of loss and supported by warm hugs and sensitive words. Slightly battered and showing signs of chips and nicks in their outer layers, they were in the process of rebuilding for the next stage of their lives. Unfortunately, this time it would be without their beloved partner. The other piece of their protective life shell was no longer there.
The morning sun tried to shine through the mackerel sky. The surf pounded on the oceanfront with such strength that the churned up sea left a layer of yellow tinged foam at the water’s edge. It looked as if a giant, frothy root beer float spilled over onto the sand. Gone were yesterday’s shell pieces and they were replaced by today’s collection of larger more intact specimens brought in by the rising tide. In and out the waves surged with confidence and authority. It was a new day and the landscape had changed.
Inside the “campers” finished their first full day of inspirational workshops and sharing sessions. Together they were standing noticeable taller. Laughter was echoing out of the conference rooms and preparations were being made for the evening’s formal dinner party. The event was a chance to dress-up and feel special while enjoying a delicious meal. There was a DJ ready to pump out some upbeat tunes in the hopes that the dormant dancing feet would come alive again. It was a time to celebrate life and the years of living that were yet to come.
Every day is different at the ocean. I think that its ebb and flow mimics our lives in some ways. We all experience our low tides. We all celebrate our high tides. But unlike the printed tide charts in the newspaper that announce the daily timetable, our highs and lows are only revealed when we live them. We can try to be ready to ride the waves of life, but sometimes we crash on the shore and then get sucked back out into darkness. It is our inner strength and the kind helping hand of another seasoned sailor that brings us up for air and helps us to get back on course.
I was so honored to have the opportunity to present my workshop, “Life’s Not Perfect”, at Camp Widow East. I hope that I was able to bring a sense of hope in anticipation of an upcoming high tide as I extended my healing, helping hand as one who had experienced a very low tide twenty years ago. I am not unique. I had a story and I am fortunate to have been given a voice with which to share it. Actually, we can all talk about our life experiences with one another and maybe one day you too can provide a lifeline. Our lives are like the vast ocean. They contain places that can be very dark, cold, and deep and they also can have precious moments that sparkle like diamonds, like the sun reflecting off the crest of a tall wave.
There was one last walk on the beach before I left. It was very windy on the final day and the water seemed to flow sideways. The ocean was coming in at a different direction as I put my head down and forged ahead up the beach. I thought about the past three days and smiled to myself. At the conclusion of the weekend we were all moving in a different direction now, just like the ocean on that morning. A new protective shell was forming and we were all heading back home riding on a wave of kindness and mutual support.
Carry on brave sailors! I hope to be with you on a future voyage.