I remember it like it was yesterday, the hot July day we’d planned to get Mama to the beach for one last time before she went to heaven. It sounds almost uneasy to say it that way but it was the simple truth. At that point, she’d had dementia for nine years, her body was deteriorating before our eyes, and she didn’t speak hardly at all anymore other than a mumbled word now and then. We knew in our hearts she would never see the ocean or feel the sand again.
I was determined for Mama to experience this place she loved one last time on earth no matter what it took. We planned the day, our family was already there waiting, and Daddy drove her from NC to SC, a feat in itself as restless as Mama could get. But they made it.
Daddy and I helped her from the truck and walked her to where the sand began and took off her sandals. As her feet touched the sand for the first time in several years, she looked down at the familiar yet unfamiliar feeling. I wondered if she knew what it was; I prayed she did. We steadily and slowly walked her to the ocean’s edge. Her feet sank in the muddiness as the waves came in and out around her feet and she stood looking first at the ocean, then at her feet, then at us as we held her arms on either side. I stared into those eyes not sure who she saw looking back, not sure what she was thinking. We will never know.
After a few minutes, Mama needed a break so we walked her to our umbrella and sat her in a chair facing the ocean. It was really then I saw a peace come over her that I’d not seen in so long. She stared off at the ocean for what seemed hours without saying a single word. Occasionally one of us would hug her or ask her if she was okay and she’d smile that smile of hers as if to say yes without having to say it. All was good for that page in time, however long it was, and her mind and soul were calm, her heart happy, and that was all that mattered. Her previous memories may have been stolen but we all made one for us that we would never forget and I want to believe she did too.
I watched Mama that day wondering if she could possibly know she would not see this amazing sight again on this side of heaven. It’s hard for me to type those words or think those thoughts even today. If we all knew we were seeing the ocean or the mountains, a loved one’s face, for the last time on this side of heaven, would we look at it differently? Of course. I so wish we all had the ability to grasp that reality each and every day because we really don’t know when that last time will be. I believe in my heart of hearts that Mama knew something, and I want to believe God was whispering in her ear, “My child, you think it’s beautiful there, just wait until you see it with me.” Four months later she did and I’m sure it was more magnificent than anything we shared with her that day in July.
Praying for a little more perspective today, seeing things as if it’s the last time on this side of heaven, and imagining the power of how much greater it will be seeing with Him from the other side.