By the Sea

Living, breathing, laughing, singing, crying, and yes dying, I’ve seen and done it all by the sea.

In 1981 Mother and I embarked on a summer like no other. We lived in a tent on Lake Arrowhead, a short stroll from the beach. Daddy was the Personnel Manager for the City of Greenville; his counterpart at North Myrtle Beach was looking for an Intern for the summer; I got the job. Yeah, it is who you know; it always is.

Not wanting their first-born to live alone, Daddy set us up in our spacious Sears tent; it contained cots, a small gas stove; a cooler; and other minimal creature comforts. We had one of those chart racks teachers used to hold wide-lined chart paper making words, then sentences with their young readers-writers. There I hung my dresses and skirts; can’t remember where I stowed my heels. Each morning I emerged from the tent dressed for success!

Each day at noon I came home to lunch with Mother. Many times I found her with her feet in a bucket of cold water; she was in the throes of menopause. I never noticed the spelling of menopause; men-o-pause, how fitting … oh, a pause from men; pretty apt, as heat like no other repels us women from the arms of our men; too hot to trot as they say! But, I digress.

I couldn’t empathize with Mother’s symptoms; now I can; I am in permanent heat intolerance as penalty for allowing Mother to suffer eleven weeks by the sea without benefit of air conditioning. Bless her for enduring that summer with me.

Our last trip by the sea together was last March-mid month. It was a good trip. One day was sunny-warm enough for me to stroll along the sandy strand. Mother stayed inside on the couch. I had no idea her cancer would take her on April sixth, a few short weeks hence. We read and rested and talked and rested and talked. We ate at our favorite Seafood Hut; together for the last time on this earth. The last day there was bitterly cold; in the building where we had our final meal together we found ourselves in an upper empty room; the biblical meaning not lost on me; blessed with floor to ceiling windows. Standing there we took in the loveliness of the beach, palmetto trees, sunlight dancing upon the waves, and warmth issuing from the window’s absorption of sun-sent heat. I treasure these days; I look back and see how appropriate she and I said hello and goodbye to our shared days by the sea; little knowing what lay ahead for both of us.

Mother, this long year without you has been hard for me … for my remaining sister. We lost you and our dear sister two months apart, cancer taking both of you. Daddy was there to welcome his wife and daughter; a reunion I can only imagine. How I long to see you three again, by me, with me, with my Sweet Lord, by the sea.

Dearest Lord, thank You is not enough; Your Omniscience provided our last  GOOD bye, by the sea.

I acted in four separate local productions of the musical Godspell, by Stephen Schwartz which opened off-Broadway on May 17, 1971.

We sang the following song based upon the Bible Scripture, Psalm 137:1-6.

Psalm 137:1-6  The Message

Alongside Babylon’s rivers
we sat on the banks; we cried and cried,
remembering the good old days in Zion.
Alongside the quaking aspens
we stacked our unplayed harps;
That’s where our captors demanded songs,
sarcastic and mocking:
“Sing us a happy Zion song!”
Oh, how could we ever sing God’s song
in this wasteland?
If I ever forget you, Jerusalem,
let my fingers wither and fall off like leaves.
Let my tongue swell and turn black
if I fail to remember you,
If I fail, O dear Jerusalem,
to honor you as my greatest.

On The Willows 

Godspell the Musical – by Stephen Schwartz, 1971

On the willows, there
We hung up our lyres
For our captors there
Of us songs
And our tormentors mirth
On the willows, there
We hung up our lyres
For our captors there
Of us songs
And our tormentor’s mirth
Sing us one
Of the songs of Zion
Sing us one
Of the songs of Zion
But how can we sing?
Sing the Lord’s songs?
In a foreign land?

Might I alter the words here to reflect the final time Mother and I spent by the sea.

On the  Palmettos, there
We hung up our lives together,
For the cancer there
Of us songs
And Mother’s tormentor mirth.

Sing us one
Of the songs of yesteryear;
Sing us one
Of the songs by the sea.

But how can we sing?
Sing those old songs?
In Heaven’s land unknown?

We’ll meet again, Mother; we’ll sing the old songs; we’ll remember; we’ll celebrate; we’ll explore a most un-common new Heavenly home together. Amen





2 thoughts on “By the Sea”

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