This poem was written for me on the occasion of my 40th birthday by our daughter Geneviève. It feels strangely appropriate as a foreword to my story entitled “Life is just a beach”. At a young age of 13 and a half years old, she seemed to intuitively know that it is life’s small moments that are cherished the most once they are gone.
Think of your life as a beach.
When you were born those years ago
It’s condition was quite pristine.
The sand was a pure unsoiled white
The crystal blue waters a Caribbean dream.
Looking on it now, it isn’t quite the same
Your single set of footprints is hard to see because
From the crowd of loving friends and family
Trying so hard to help they’re sometimes in the way.
The water is darker now, from memories good and bad
But beautiful shells adorn the special times you’ve had.
The beach isn’t as clean in fact it is quite cluttered
From beach toys, old peanut butter sandwiches
And restrooms that weren’t there before.
But as you look upon your beach, try not to feel so sad
Because even though it’s not a Caribbean scene
A new kind of beauty has appeared.
The messy beauty of a life well lived and
Just because it’s old, doesn’t mean it’s out of style. So as we celebrate your b-day, singing off-key all the while
Remember that your life is beautiful, and that means you are too
And of that I’ll always remind you… even if you’re 92.
So here we go, the dreaded forty, but please remind yourself
Life is a beach, simply a beach
And that ’s all you’ll ever need to know.
This poem was typed out on an old type writer. The paper then hastily glued onto the back of a Cheerios box. It is to this day a most cherished of gifts as it serves as a daily reminder that life and all the moments within it are special.
Life Is A Beach
The day started just like many others, and it was as I always said “Another day in paradise” in beautiful Maui. We woke up early to the sounds of crashing waves and birds singing. We made love, ate breakfast on the Lanaii and talked about the future as empty nesters. Then we packed up to go to Little Beach. We set up our sun tent and soaked in the sunshine. It was hot so we decided to cool off in the water.
We had finished cooling off and were making our way back to the shore. Standing in water at chest level, as always we were both facing the water and close together. We had a buddy system. As the wave approached, we could see its crest rising, foaming and curling. Jim said to me “You have to dive under this one… Ready?”. This is where our lives changed forever. I came up to the surface and as we always do, I looked for Jim. That was always the deal; I look for him, he looks for me. Except he never came up. It felt like a time warp. “Where is he? Is he still swimming under the water?” I thought to myself, but I realized very quickly that something was wrong. Something was very wrong; then I spotted him. There he was, floating face down in the water. The only thing visible in the surf was the patch of skin between his shoulder blades. I swam as fast as I could to him, grabbed him by the chest and turned him around to rest his head on my shoulder. Now I realized that I couldn’t bring him in on my own as it was all I could do to hold onto him and not go under water myself. It is impossible to describe the desperate cry for help that came out of my body as I tried to prevent the ocean from taking his body out to sea.
The response from the beach was immediate and restored my faith in humanity. Guys on the beach came running and jumped into the ocean at their own risk. Others on the beach were on their phones calling for help.
Somehow we dragged Jim’s body back to land. As I crashed onto the beach beside Jim’s body, I managed to sputter and bring myself up to sitting position. One look over at Jim and I knew that things were bad. Things were very bad. There are those times when sadly, too much knowledge is not a good thing. Being of a medical background, it didn’t take more than a glance for me to realize how critical the situation was. With my inside voice I noted my clinical assessment: “skin color grey, eyes fixed, pin prick like pupils, abdominal breathing (the last desperate attempts for a body to cling onto the vestiges of life).”
CPR was being applied, and time stood still.
The beach was chaos with sounds of the crashing sound of the ocean, people on their phones, rescuers desperately calling Jim’s name in an attempt to keep him from leaving this world filling the air.
Strangely, it was amidst this chaos that I experienced what it truly means to live without regrets. Suddenly, all of the noise and chaos was gone and it was like it was just Jim and I on the beach. I held onto his feet (the only part of his body not surrounded by others), I closed my eyes and prepared to let go of my husband, my best friend and partner of 30 years. This is what I said to him: “I’ve loved you every day of my life, and I told you that I loved you every day of my life, I have given all I had to you. There is nothing else I wish I had given you. I love you always.” It was bar none the most peaceful moment of my life.
And then just like that the moment was over and it was back to chaos. Rescuers frantically yelling at me to “talk to him, he’s coming back!”. In my defence, all I can say is that one can never be certain of one’s reaction when under extremely stressful situations. I scrambled to where Jim’s head lay in the sand, pounded both fists in the sand beside his head and yelled: “this is NOT the end of the story!! You owe me another 30 years on the marriage contract!” The look of shock and surprise on all of the onlookers faces was understandable but somehow the message reached Jim and he had what I like to call his “If I Stay” moment.
(Of note, “If I Stay” is a movie where an accident puts one of the characters in a coma. From this state, the person examines their life from various angles and examines the pros and cons of “staying” in life or moving onto the other world)
Jim being always very methodical and analytical in all his decisions heard me and this is my interpretation of what went on in his head.
Jim: “wow! I really messed up big time! She’s really mad. If I go now and she joins me 30 years later up there, there’s going to be hell to pay. Hmmmmm (still thinking…) Ok, I messed up, better cut my losses now. I’ll stay”.
And with that we were catapulted into our new life. We continue to live life without regrets and tell each other everyday how much we love each other.
Keep the Love Coming.