Four summers ago the first weekend in September marked one month. One month lived out shaky and unsteady. Just putting a few steps in front of the other and letting tears drip down faces or anger spill out at the sky. "Why?"
I had watched my husband shake violently at the graveside of his twenty-six year old brother as he sat a few inches from the casket.
My usually stoic husband reached out for the casket as he passed by and I heard his voice crack as he called out his name. One more time. I had never seen him stricken with grief. That groan of emotion haunted me. Those fifteen minutes spent under the funeral home's green awning the last minutes his family would ever be within arms length of this special brother. A brother who had just slipped quietly out of this life beneath the green gold water of a river one steaming August day. Bare chested and tan, jumping off the dock with friends. Never to resurface again.
A lot of that week in August was just waking up and reliving a nightmare. Watching people unaccustomed to having tragedy rip their hearts open. I was surprised at how well the family waded through all these storm surge waves. Still afloat.
That first weekend in September ringed one month gone, a cluster of thirty days now traveled outside of the tragedy. We had planned a beach vacation at the beginning the summer and wondered if we should still take it.
We decided that proceeding as normal would be best to help bleeding hearts. And we took her.
Brother gone but not forgotten, that brother's little girl. Her mother let us take her with us to the beach. At the time we had two girls of our own. This niece of ours was so full of everything life and already bearing the marked personality of both of her parents' stubbornness and wild determination to live unafraid.
This little eighteen month toddler really couldn't comprehend it. Where was her daddy that had held her beneath the sheets and fed her the last bottle as they slept together? Where was that daddy whose brown hair dripped curls mirroring her own wild curls? How could one so little now be excepted to be ok? To live? To thrive?
I remember the first day we arrived at the beach. We all just had to go in. Let's be honest. How can you arrive at a beach and not at least see it that day? You can't wait. No matter what time you arrive.
I enjoyed watching my own girls prance in the waves, squeal as their feet got lost in tide pools, and run as sea foam tried to tag them. My littlest girl at the time was scared. Sea shy. She was a bit unsure. She gingerly made her way to greet the waves for the first time. At the first meeting she wasn't completely sold
But, our niece....
She ran right into the waves. Sea water covering her chubby feet. She was laughing wildly as the wind whipped her white blonde hair into a million tangles. A wonderstruck grin stretched wide across her cheeks. She was in awe and she was unafraid.
That scene spoke loudly to me.
She wasn't scared in the least. She was ready to play, be knocked down by so many waves...
Water had sunk her own daddy a month before.
But just like him jumping off the dock, she was ready to jump in..Anyways....
I thought in that moment that she would be ok. She had the spirit to fight
And she has...
All these years later beneath the weight of so much love and attention from grandparents and her mom, and really because she possesses a free and wild spirit this girl with the sky blue eyes is okay...
I knew it would be so the day I saw her first greet the waves...