A Post On the Edge of the Continent

“My brother died in his sleep. He was 52 years-old.” Her eyes were moist, her cheeks dry. “I was at my sister’s house for her birthday. When we got the phone call I knew immediately that we were supposed to be together—as a family—to get through this.”

The Lioness (TL) and I were sitting on a log having a picnic lunch on the beach at The Point Reyes National Seashore along the western edge of Marin County, California. It was a partly cloudy day, with cool temperatures and a gentle breeze. The sound of the surf crashing onto the shore created a calming soundtrack to the scene that stretched out before us.

To the north a solitary man walked towards us, stopping now and then to pick up a shell from the beach. South of us, a few people walking their dogs gave a wide berth to a man digging in the sand. His weathered skin and sun-bleached hat and clothes were testaments to a lifetime spent outdoors.

“What do you suppose those posts in the sand are for?” I was thinking the same thing when my wife posed the question.post detail_text

“I dunno. An art project, maybe? A memorial of some kind?”

“That’s what I’m thinking.”

“Like those shrines on the sides of the highway? Someone died, drowned here?”

“Or perhaps their family had a memorial service, scattered ashes, at this spot.”

The waves continued to crash onto the beach. The wind gusted and I had to reach out and grab our sandwich wrappers before they blew away and littered the beach. That’s when I noticed the lady walking behind us.

She wore black cargo pants and a long-sleeved khaki shirt under a darker khaki vest. A wide-brimmed tan sun hat was tied under her chin. Her hands were clasped behind her back and her head was tilted down toward the ground in front of her as she walked.

TL noticed me half-turned on the log, my attention focused behind us, and she followed my gaze to the new visitor. “Hi, there. Would you like to share some of our vegetables? We bought more than we can eat.”

Our visitor looked up, surprised by the kindness of strangers. “Oh, no thanks. I didn’t mean to disturb your lunch. I’m not going to be here very long. Got to get back to work this afternoon, you know how it is.”

“You’re not disturbing us. If you change your mind just c’mon over and help yourself.” The Lioness placed the tray of veggies on the log in front of the lady.

“Thanks, but I’ll be on my way.”

She turned away from us and I noticed that she held a flower in her hands behind her back. We watched her walk over to the post near us, bend down and place the flower in the sand at the base of the driftwood staff. She stood up and after a moment of silence, head bowed in prayer, she turned and walked over to where we were sitting.

The Lioness was the first to reach out, “Did you put that post in the sand in memory of someone?”

“My brother died in his sleep. He was 52 years-old.” Her eyes were moist, her cheeks dry. “I was at my sister’s house for her birthday. When we got the phone call I knew immediately that we were supposed to be together—as a family—to get through this.”

“I’m sorry for your loss.”

“He was back East. He couldn’t make it back home this year for her birthday. We scattered his ashes out here last Saturday.”

I looked at the flowers and the post, did the math in my head. Saturday to Wednesday, five days and five flowers—four in the sand and one on top of the post, probably the first one from the service on Saturday.

“Are your parents still alive?”

“No. My dad’s been gone for awhile and my mother died nine years ago.”

“Parents should not outlive their children, if that’s any consolation.”

“You’re right. We scattered my mom out here, in the waters, and now my baby brother…”

“What is your brother’s name?”

“Ken.”

“And yours?”

“Barbara.”

“Well, I’m Deb and this is Al. We never met your brother, but we will always think of Ken and your family whenever we return to this spot. It is a favorite of ours.”

“Thank you. I’m sorry that I interrupted your time together today.”

“It is not a problem. I am sorry if I interrupted your private time.”

“It’s okay. It helps to talk to someone who understands.”

Why is it that some people die so young? Prince died the day after this encounter and, at age 57, he was just five years older than than Ken. There was a time in my life that the death of someone in their fifties would not seem at all unnatural.

Speaking as someone who is 10 and 15 years older than both of them, their untimely demise doesn’t fit into my perspective of Life. But then again, I am not in charge and I don’t have a clue about what is going on, much less why.

Woody Allen is quoted as saying, “I’m not afraid of death. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” As far as I know that is not an available option.

I think that the best thing that we can do is to live a good life, be respectful of others, and leave the world in better shape than we found it. It is a day-at-a-time commitment because we don’t know when our time here will end.

“Strange, is it not? that of the myriads who
Before us pass’d the door of Darkness through
Not one returns to tell us of the Road,
Which to discover we must travel too.”
The Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam, verse XLIX

  4 comments for “A Post On the Edge of the Continent

  1. April 24, 2016 at 12:41 PM

    You give real voice to such thoughtful, special moments…

    Like

  2. April 22, 2016 at 1:32 PM

    What a lovely story, What a haunting image. That stick. It almost looks sentient.

    Like

    • April 22, 2016 at 6:30 PM

      I agree. It seemed to be extraordinary even before we got the backstory. Thanks for checking in, Tom.
      Ω

      Like

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