by Bev Borton~
When my dear friend of 37 years was arranging to take a personal day from work this past September, colleagues noticed her preparations, and were curious as to her plans.
She told them, “My friend’s father died.”
“Oh, you’re going to the funeral…” they said seriously.
“No, we’re going to the beach,” she smiled.
Two weeks after my Dad’s death, having been unable to attend the funeral, she suggested a day on Long Beach Island would be the perfect way to honor me and my father- to celebrate our lives and his legacy. We had missed our traditional day long retreat to the shore this summer, when we typically pour ourselves out to each other. Now would be the time to fulfill our seasonal plan and our souls as well.
As we drove, we knew the day would unfold characteristically; we would cover a lot of ground that would be both important and poignant, and inevitably silly and inane. Once at the beach, perfection reigned- brilliant light, a cloudless sky, and water that shone clear as the Caribbean. Seagulls outnumbered people by far. The sound of the waves began to soothe my emotions and wash away unimportant thoughts. First, of course, there was the food; she brought a ceremonial feast of healthy selections in which we heartily indulged. Is it fresh air that makes every bite more appreciated? After a while cooler breezes whipped up nudging us to move from our chairs onto a blanket where, lying closer to the sand, we were warmer. Head to head, looking up at the sky, our rambling conversation continued.
Appreciation for the wonders of life, the beauty and expansiveness of nature, and the miracle of our existence alternated with stories about the cast of characters in our families and lives. We recounted some challenges, but mostly the good of everyone’s accomplishments and progress. The focus was not on the loss so much as the joyous gains of life. Memories, life gifts, life lessons, and connections of all kinds were brought to light. Oh, and to be sure, there was the point when we huddled under a large towel to create the darkness needed to view a few funny YouTube parodies and laugh our heads off. The pageant of life this day seemed at once ordinary and extraordinary.
This is how I enjoyed honoring my Dad’s life- by honoring my own with gratitude. I lived this day without expectations, obligations, activity, noise, distractions or media (well, not much), and rested inside a good friend’s open heart. Floating timelessly like this gave me the perspective to consider how a lifetime tapestry of love and support is miraculously and invisibly woven through even the most mundane activities. Every moment matters! We create something bigger than ourselves.
Leaving the beach that day, my arms stretching high to the open sky, I shouted, “Thank you!” feeling rich, satisfied, and happy to be alive. Now, that’s healing.
A tremendous sense of purpose rises in me to create more of this good feeling in the world. Life is about nurturing rich, satisfying relationships. It is about ongoing personal growth and contribution. It’s about being childlike and timeless, too, to keep it all in perspective. It’s about honoring those before us.
What if we were all more careful about the obligations we chose so as not to waste ourselves? What if we had fewer expectations of others? What if we offered our hearts more often? Appreciated our surroundings every day? Reduced the “noise”? Channeled our contributions with intention? After all, our legacies are created from the inside out. Moment by moment.