It's nearly six weeks since dad passed. I've been quiet on the blog and social media. I've been quiet in my heart, too. Trying to find my way back to a normal life, whatever that means now that I’m an ‘orphaned’ baby boomer.
Last month, I experienced my personal brand of March Madness. It wound round my heart with tears and smiles of loved ones now and remembered. It meant heading to the beach to find peace.
I am blessed to be lifted up by caring friends, neighbors, and my church family. They tell me grief is a journey unique to every person. It cannot be rushed. I cling to this, telling myself it gets better every day.
I do fairly well during the day, but sleep often eludes me. Nights can be long and restless. My mind will not shut off, and thoughts pushed aside during the day came back to shout at me.
There is the business of death to attend with closing dad's life. I’m grateful for my three siblings. We divide mundane but necessary legal and financial tasks. Hours on the phone cancelling and updating accounts. A gazillion forms to fill out and file. The wait for lawyers and courts to process all this paperwork.
There is the journey of grief. When mama passed six years ago, it felt easier because I wanted to stay strong for dad. Now he's gone, so that barrier has disappeared. Nothing to keep me from falling apart.
Ordinary things come out of left field and collide with my heart. Hearing his cheery, Dad here. Calling to see how you’re doing!, on old voice mail messages stops me cold. I am reduced to a puddle when I see empty rows of monthly expenses forever waiting to be entered on the spreadsheet I keep for his 2017 taxes. I can't bring myself to erasing any of these things.
It becomes too much. JM and I escape to Kure Beach, a quiet coastal village two hours from our North Carolina home. There we find the perfect combination of gentling down and keeping active.
Touring nearby Fort Fisher Civil War battlefield and historic homes in Wilmington, NC, remind me of the passage of time and our fleeting existence on this earth. I find comfort knowing those who lived centuries ago left pieces of their life still remembered today.
And that cluster of infant graves in the old-timey Southport cemetery!
It tugs at my heart more than a century later.
These babies died before they had a chance to live, but their names are not forgotten in this peaceful resting place.
I think how lucky I am to be alive on a beautiful spring day.
Airlie Gardens brings hope in its sheer beauty and sleepy plants bursting with new life from their winter rest.
The Garden's prize 400-year old oak and acres of tree-lined trails drip with Spanish moss and eye-popping azaleas. They stand majestic and proud.
Mother Nature and the Creator at their best.
The North Carolina Aquarium is a place of pure joy.
I smile at stingrays in the touch tank and watch hundreds of exuberant school kids explore, overjoyed to be out of the classroom. During the 20-minute shark tank show, tired chaperones welcome the break and rest their weary feet. "I wish I had their energy," one chaperone tells me with a tired smile.
Best of all, the ocean is my place of rejuvenation and peace. The weather is too chilly to sit on the beach, and the wind wants to blow us off the island. But we take the short stroll from our rental cottage to walk for miles every day on the solitary hard-packed sand. Crashing waves and squawking seabirds drown out the world.
The sun and salt work their magic.
The fog is lifting.
I still have a way to go, but I’m on my way to feeling whole again. Beyond-grateful for your company on this journey.
How do you recharge when you're depleted? Do you head to a happy place? Stay quiet inside yourself? Pet a puppy? Hold a baby? Please share your ideas for coping in the comment section.
Photos: Cat Michaels, with Panasonic Lumix GX7 and iPhone 6s
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