My mother's family started their annual Beach Week tradition in the summer of '96. A year after my grandfather's death my grandmother decided that she wanted more time with all of us, so she rented a beach house at Emerald Isle. That first year it was a small group - my grandmother, my parents and sister (I was in the mountains of NC working as a camp counselor), two of my three aunts and their husbands and children. The oldest grandchild in attendance was 14 and the youngest was 3. I don't think Grandma could have foreseen that 21 years later we'd still be making our annual trek to the beach, now an older and larger group. We've added spouses, another aunt and her branch of the family, another generation and their significant others... and 17 and a half years later we still miss my grandmother and remember our time with her fondly.
I find myself thinking about death a lot lately. I know that none of us knows when our time will come, but the prospect of John's death is never far from my mind. Do we have days together? Weeks? Months? Years? How do we plan for the future? This past week we made that annual journey to the beach with the family and I watched him closely, saw his belly filling with fluid (he gained 20 lbs in two weeks), saw the discomfort etched on his face, and wondered. How much time do we have left?
And yet I knew that the beach was where I needed to be.
There's something so therapeutic about the beach - the salty breeze, the soft sand, the sound of waves crashing. Be it sitting under an umbrella on the beach (yes, I'm a pale girl and I need my shade), swimming in the water (yes, Mom, I was safe and didn't go in higher than my waist - no sharks or riptides claimed me as their own), or sitting on the second-level covered deck of the beach house (again - pale girls need sun protection) I felt waves of God's peace and comfort rolling in to envelope me.
John and I left Beach Week early so I could go to work (our first teacher workday was Thursday) but little did I know that instead of spending Friday readying my classroom I'd spend it crocheting in waiting rooms while John had a CT scan followed closely by a paracentesis. I think we both knew that the oral treatment they were having him try over the summer wasn't as effective as we'd hoped and certainly wasn't very tolerable for him, but we certainly didn't expect to receive a phone call on Friday afternoon informing us that he's been scheduled to restart chemotherapy on Monday. I wish I hadn't taken my Feeling Buddies back to school on Thursday - I need Anxious to sit with me this weekend.
I think I need another round of beach therapy...