I walk on hard packed sand at low tide jumping tide pools in black tennies, remembering other days when my husband was by my side. We'd stop and kiss each time we felt the surge of wave and wind within us, holding hands and swinging our arms like two twelve year olds on a fieldtrip. We were on a 19 year field trip that took us to Mexico and Fiji, Cozumel and Belize, and always to Hawaii where we breathed the trade winds and swam in the warm ocean of our love. But now I walk this beach alone, my husband gone for over a year.
I finally cry this morning, letting tears splash down my face and dampen my sweatshirt. I sob above the surf that pounds the rock and shore, sounding like a wolf whose mate has been killed. I know how the wolf feels, and I howl at the too blue sky and endless ocean that both seem too impartial, too uncaring. I need a witness for my grief, perhaps a sandpiper or seagull to look up and see me. Two ducks float by in the current, but this mated pair is no comfort, reminding me that I am now one, not two.
I look for other signs that something cares about my grief; maybe I'll find a heart-shaped rock or aqua shell to say "You will survive." I once found 20 heart rocks on this beach and couldn't wait to give my husband the perfect one. For years we traded shells and stones and placed them on altars to remind us of that time together. Today I only find broken shells and dark jagged rocks, the beach littered with dead crabs, a head here, a claw there, shells that once housed the living.
I'm crying harder now and can barely see the way ahead, my eyes blurring and my wet and squishy shoes sqeaking on the sandbar. My vision clears for a moment and I see something winking at me in the shallows, a sand dollar, perfectly round and white. I pick it up and see the flower design, the fragile thinness, turn it over and over as if looking for some flaw, but there is none. This shell has somehow survived pounding waves and rock and hard sand beach, to lie in a still pool reflecting noon sun.
Something akin to hope rises in my chest, something bigger than my sadness and my tears. It is the sense that life ebbs and flows, that a broken heart will mend with time, that the love that seems to be gone is really all around us, in the beauty of a low tide beach, in cypress trees and low lying green hills, in the friends and family who love us, and in white sand dollars just waiting to be found.