Tuesday, June 13, 2006


A steady wind blew forcefully across the top of the dunes. Thin trails of white sand swept along the surface of the empty beach as they twisted their way down to the sea. I walked along the shoreline in an attempt to quiet an unsettling feeling that had remained within me for days since the 11th anniversary of my wife's death at the end of May. The open view and constant sound of crashing waves in the background helped bring focus to my thoughts.

The beach was practically deserted except for a few families determined to brave the overcast skies and cold wind that had been blowing all day. Three little girls played in the surf up ahead, looking like tiny sandpipers as they skittered down to the water's edge on tiptoe and then raced back up the beach just ahead of the advancing tide. Off in the distance a young boy was flying a kite. Actually from the looks of things, the kite appeared to be flying him. The bottoms of his feet hardly seemed to touch the sand as he ran on and on with the wind.

My thoughts went back to an earlier summer spent just a little bit further up the coast on Brigantine beach. Brendan had been about two and a half years old and spent every moment possible playing in the ocean. Liz and I would stand on either side of him in the knee-deep water, holding his hands and shouting in mock suspense as a wave would begin to roll in steadily towards us. Each time he would burst into fits of laughter as his body was lifted into the air at the very last moment while the wave rolled beneath him, and then would grip our fingers in eager anticipation with his small hands as we waited for the next one to approach. Within five minutes after Liz dried him off with a towel upon our return to the beach chairs, he would take off running across the sand down to the water's edge once again. That went on all throughout the day until he eventually wore himself out, finally coming to rest as he slept in his mother's arms while they sat under the cool shade of a beach umbrella.
* * * * * *
Last night I looked through some photographs from that summer. In the past, I had always felt a strong sense of sadness whenever I got to this picture and saw the look of contentment on Brendan's face.
It would tear me up inside thinking that no matter how many hugs and kisses I would give Brendan for both Elizabeth and myself in the years to come, he would never again get to feel the comfort that can only be found in a mother's embrace.
This time I considered things from a different perspective. I realized that the one person who had experienced even more joy than Brendan on the beach that day was Elizabeth. All she had ever truly wanted out of life was to become a mother, and she cherished every day spent with her little boy more than the one before it. A series of random coincidences had brought us together on the first night we met, which led to us getting married and eventually starting a family. Another equally arbitrary chain of events fell into place which led up to the night that she was taken away so suddenly.
The expression on Liz's face in that photo left no doubt in my mind that had she been given the choice, she wouldn't have traded those three brief years loving our son for the chance to live one hundred years without him if we had never met. And as I continued to gaze at that moment captured so many years ago I had a glimpse of another moment yet to come. Through her eyes I could picture the day when the three of us will be together again, finding ourselves in each other’s arms as we meet upon a distant shore.