I was on vacation in Panama City, Florida, when I received an email from a good friend. Anytime an email starts off with…“It’s with a heavy heart that I tell you…,” you know the news is not good. I steeled myself for what came next.
The email informed me of the passing of a former neighbor/acquaintance who had died earlier in the week. Her daughter, unable to reach her mom for several days, found her body.
A number of feelings ran through me as I thought of my former neighbor dying alone at the relatively young age of 55. I hadn’t seen her in years, not since she had moved from the neighborhood and later divorced.
If I remember correctly, she was one of the first in our social group to divorce. I think I was the second. In between those times were more dramas, deaths, betrayals, as our lives took different courses.
I was with friends from our old social group and neighborhood recently, enjoying dinner together. One friend talked about how she wants to stop the clock, so to speak…because this “is the best time of her life.” Her kids are grown, one married, the rest self-sufficient. She is healthy and beautiful and very comfortable, dividing her time with her husband between her beautiful home in my old neighborhood, and a lake house they bought a few years ago.
Fifty-five is too young to die, I think. And these thoughts rise and fall in my head like the waves I am witnessing crash over the white shore of a pristine beach at St. Andrew’s Bay.
I watch a beautiful young woman, fit and firm standing like a warrior on her surfboard. For a few minutes I am distracted by her grace as she navigates the waves with the expertise of someone who is well-practiced at her skill. I wonder how many countless hours she has invested in her art; she was as lovely as a poem and evoked the effortless grace and confidence of someone who could handle the changing tides. I wonder how many times she had fallen and gotten up, only to be knocked down by the fickle waves again and again.
She held herself with the regal stance of a queen, and she was the queen of that ocean on this day, paddling the waters as though they were under her silent command. For once I could see the embodiment of the expression…. “going with the flow.” She rode each wave without fight, without effort, or so it seemed. I was captivated by her beauty and strength.
And it occurred to me, that even going with the flow, no matter how effortless it looks, takes practice. Her effortlessness and ease came from practice: and it came from every fall and every time she rightened herself.
Now, it was mostly smooth sailing…and except for the occasional renegade wave that temporarily steered her off course and knocked her into the emerald waters, she was in control. Because she always got up.
That’s how I think life works. When we quit fighting, and allow, we can flow more artfully through life. But we still need the courage to righten our course, to get back up when currents knock us over or pull us under.
It’s the duality of life…going with the flow, but rising every single time we fall. It’s simple, yet hard. Beautiful, but messy. It’s life. Beautiful life. And it’s here, now, to be enjoyed, in all of its glory, in all of its messiness, now, before it leaves us.
Perched on the beach, I watch the waves come and go. And I send my old neighbor, a friend of sorts from a different time and place, a blessing.