When I was fourteen my family went on our yearly vacation to “the shore.” This is how you refer to the New Jersey beaches if you happen to be from around Philly. This year we were renting a house with the cousins so there were 18 people in the house when the ambulance came to take David away. A day later my parents returned to tell us that our brother had died. We had an hour or two until we left for home and so we went to the beach. We weren’t wearing our suits; we were just there to look. Some of us sat on the jetty and others walked the beach. I remember looking at the waves coming in and going out and thinking “is this how it is God? You give and take, people in, people out.”
When I was twenty-four, Patrick passed away. That summer my parents rented a house right on the ocean…unheard of! I sat on the deck and looked at the waves and thought, “who’s next?” Mom? Dad? Joanne? Mike? Tim? Biggs? Me? People in, people out.
When I was 39 I took my son to the beach for the first time in his life. We played in the ocean and I thought, “don’t even think about it, he stays…he stays!” I could not let him go in too far…some don’t come back. People in…not today.
Just before I turned 40 my mother died. She loved the ocean very much. We wanted to take her one last time as the end of her life drew near. We couldn’t. We brought the beach to her. In our little house in Havertown, there was a cd playing ocean sounds. We rubbed sand on her feet. Aromatherapy candles smelling like the mist from the sea. She died by the ocean. People out.
Now I love the ocean. It brings me peace. I don’t know why or how but it does.