One of our family’s First’s this summer was taking a trip to the beach as a family for the first time since Will’s passing. This was a huge step in moving forward for my husband and me.
Will was three months shy of turning three years old when we took him to the beach for the first time. It was magical seeing the beach through the eyes of a child. Every trip I have taken to the beach since 1990 has always been compared to that first trip to the beach with Will. We enjoyed going to the beach every year as our four children grew. For our family, going to the beach for a week meant uninterrupted family time.
This year, we planned a trip to the beach over the Fourth of July holiday week. The plan was for our two married sons and their wives to meet us in Florida. My husband, daughter, and I traveled together. As my husband and I planned this trip, we knew that it would be emotional for us because everything at the beach would remind us of Will and memories of carefree family trips. However, we made the decision to start a new type of vacation with the family that we are still blessed to have here with us. We also wanted to celebrate the memories of trips past that included Will.
My husband, daughter,and I were about three hours into our journey towards the beach. It had been lightly raining off and on for about an hour. It was the type of rain that doesn’t require more than an occasional swipe of the wipers. We were travelling on a four lane divided highway. My husband pointed out a rainbow in the sky on the left side of the road. As we craned our heads to see it, we realized that this rainbow was slowly continuing it’s path, across four lanes, all the way to the right side of the road. We literally drove under a rainbow. It felt surreal and spirit filled. I had a knowing that it was Will sending us a sign that he loved that we were going to the beach.
At that same moment, a song that I haven’t thought of in years boomed inside my head. It was as if I were wearing earbuds and was music only I could hear. I have never been good with remembering lyrics, but these lyrics were clear and the sound of the instruments was so crisp. The song was James Taylor’s, “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You”. The words felt like an affirmation that I had loved him during his time on earth exactly the way that he needed me to love him. It was a feeling of peace.
One of the things that I had arranged before our trip was for our family to have a beach photograph taken. A photographer friend was going to be vacationing at the beach where we were planning to stay. I shared with the her that I would love to do a balloon launch. She volunteered to bring the balloons and photograph that for us. She made our appointment for July 3rd at 7:00 p.m. CST. Yet another affirmation from heaven revealed itself to me.
You see, the photographer was unaware that last year my husband, daughter, and I had spent the Fourth of July 2016 holiday weekend visiting Will in South Florida. On July 3, 2016, we had dinner with Will before dropping him off at his apartment at 8:00 p.m. EST. We all hugged and kissed each other goodbye in the parking lot because our flight to come home was early the next morning on July 4th. After our goodbyes, we sat in the car and watched him walk across the lawn in the dusk to his apartment. It was the last time we ever saw him.
At 7:00 p.m. CST, on July 3, 2017, our family met our photographer in the parking lot of a state park. As we were walking down the boardwalk, I couldn’t help but remember that it was exactly one year to the hour that I had hugged and kissed Will goodbye for the last time. As I walked toward the beach I was thinking, had I known that was the last time I would see him I would have hugged him harder and not let go. I felt as if I were going to sob as I walked toward the sand. As I stepped off the the last step of the boardwalk, a white feather lay perfectly at my feet. I picked it up and put it in my jeans pocket. It felt like another sign. Hey Mom, I’m here, too.
An assortment of photographs were taken before we gathered with our balloons: two white, two cream, two gray, and one red. The seven of us formed a circle, oblivious of the other people on the beach. It felt like a sacred moment to me. We shared meaningful words and a prayer. We released our balloons, one by one. It was hard for me to let that red balloon go. The wind miraculously gathered the red one and it joined the others to form a cluster of seven balloons. We watched as our balloons slowly faded into the sky at sunset.
These small serendipitous moments, gathered over a week, brought another little dose of healing to me.
How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)
I needed the shelter of someone’s arms and there you were.
I needed someone to understand my ups and downs and there you were.
With sweet love and devotion, deeply touching my emotion, I want to stop and thank you baby, I want to stop and thank you baby. How sweet it is to be loved by you.
YouTube Link to James Taylor, How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)
Will, Thanks for reminding me that your spirit will always be with us. Love, Mom
Peace and Love.
What kind of signs have your loved ones sent to you? Please share your story.
She writes about life, death, grief, and recovery.