I find myself thinking that I have moved to a very different place than I was, even a year ago. And then, I find myself remembering what 3 ½ years ago was…the day after the boys were killed. I find myself being thankful that 3 ½ years have passed and that I would not want to go back.
But…I also find myself wishing that I could go back to another evening, right at dusk, on Figure Eight Island. It was August of 2001. Blaine and I watched two white moons shining up at us, as we waited for the real moon to cast its ethereal glow down on us. It was our last trip to the beach together, Labor Day weekend. Wes and Andy saw that no one was on what seemed like a ¼ mile wide beach, and decided to “moon” their parents. I remember laughing hysterically, while cautiously peering over my shoulder to make sure no one really was around. I was thankful that this was a private island.
Then I find the place where the sea meets the sky…here, today the sea is green, the sky, because of an overcast day, a gray blue. I find myself remembering the color of Wes’s and Andy’s eyes. Wes’s were a gray blue—just like the sky. Andy’s were a muted green, just like the sea.
I find sand cutting at my ankles as it blows across the beach…ouch! I remember how it felt when we found out that the boys had been killed—like a knife cutting through my heart, twice.
I find the surf nipping at my heels as the tide begins its journey inward, sneaking up behind me, surprising me with its cold foam. I remember how it felt when the tears would come suddenly, as if from nowhere, in those early months and first year or two. Those tears were cold too, as they ran down my cheeks…and just like the sea, seemingly unending. That was okay…it still is. But, just like I can control where I walk on the beach, so as to prevent the surf from overtaking me, I find that I am now able to control the tears.
Finding the dad throwing a ball with his two sons this morning made me smile, remembering the times Blaine and the boys played ball through the years. Baseball didn’t end up being the sport of choice for either of them, but they gave it a shot. This also reminds me of how something so simple can be so good, as long as that dad keeps things in perspective and doesn’t become a pushy, living vicariously through his sons kind of dad. I find myself thinking that we tried very hard not to do that as Wes and Andy’s parents.
As I walk on I find what appears to be a family of seagulls. In bird language (is that a pseudo-science word?) I’m sure they would be called a flock, but I like to think of them as a family. There are two larger birds; I decide they are the mom and dad. And there were several children—they even have a set of triplets, just like our neighbors on our street! I find myself wondering what it would be like to have come from (and to have) a large family. As I watch these gulls, it is obvious that there is a pecking order—I’m sure that would also be the case in a large family! It makes me realize how much I miss having a family. Blaine and I still consider ourselves a family, mainly because we have found a way to involve ourselves in the lives of others, but it’s still not the same. I find myself being thankful that I had two loving parents, a wonderful big sister, for an almost perfect husband…for the family we had.
And then, I find myself thinking, even with our adoption of Hope, this little girl who is somewhere in China, it will not be the same…it shouldn’t be.
At this point I turn back, still without a gift from the sea that has to find me (as assigned by Carol for this writing prompt). And then it finds me! The sun reflects off of its broken brain, some old rusted-out piece of an electronic mechanism lies just at the surf’s edge. Immediately I think of Wes. Had he found it in the surf on that last beach vacation he would have cleaned it and analyzed it, closely studying every intricate detail? “What is it? Where did it come from? What did it do?” he would have asked, picking Blaine’s brain, but probably to no avail. He would have taken it home in his suitcase, leaking sand into his smelly, unfolded clothes. But it would have found its way to the bottom…forgotten then. Would I have found it later, after his death? However, he didn’t find it…I did. I’ll keep it—in honor of Wes, in honor of his desire to know what, how, and why, in honor of his intelligence…in honor of who God made him to be, even for a little while.
Of course after something found me that reminded me so much of Wes’s nature, I begin searching diligently for reminder of Andy. I remind myself that I am supposed to let it find me, but that begins to annoy me—it is part of that determined spirit I have been “blessed” with. I find shells, but they are blue, almost the color of Wes’s eyes. I guess I’ve never found a green shell. So I turn and gaze out at that big green sea. I watch its movement: constant, loud, bouncing waves crashing in a rhythm of their own accord. Aha! Andy Burton: constant—dependable; loud—talkative and expressive; bouncing—Andy’s gait of course! We used to imitate him when we were hiking in the mountains, if he were in the lead. His long, strong arms seemed to flail somewhat and his stride had a little “Clem Kaddiddlehopper” bounce. We loved it—it was Andy! The waves—I see you Andy…you are there. You have found me.
So today, I find what has found me. Memories…sweet, peace-filled memories overtake the bitter ones, the biting sand, the cold, nipping surf. I hold back the memory of that night and the years of tears that followed, the ones we all, my Breath of Sol sisters, work so hard to keep down low in our souls.
The last thing that, yes, really does find me is a delicate, pink flower. Still at bloom at the end of September, 3½ years after the day we lost Wes and Andy. It is a growing wild on a vine at the foot of the steps that lead to the beach. It is a sweet pea. The irony here: I have been thinking about what nickname we will bestow upon this precious little one who is half-a-world-away. “Sweet Pea” is what I came up with months ago. I am filled now with hope and precious memories—they find me today, here at the sea. And I find myself thankful…
(Written at Breath of Sol Retreat, Emerald Isle, September 30, 2005)
~ Beverly Burton