We go to the beach.
We’re trying to clear our heads, mend our breaking hearts.
It’s hard to talk about her without crying. So we talk about our work. Family stuff. Travel.
We wander the shore. Everything’s a little more dull without Izzy in the world. True, the ocean is soothing. The sky. The surf. The palm trees. It’s all so beautiful, yet vague. As if viewed from a long way off, even though we’re right there, walking amidst it all.
I really don’t know what’s going to pull us out of this emotional riptide. I hope it’s something other than time, because I could drown in these slow waters before time heals this ache.
A miracle would be nice. But I don’t ask for it. I just look at the sunset and sigh, sip my Piña Colada. Throw back my Don Julio. Go back to reading my book on the blue canvas lounger.
And then the sun is being swallowed by the wavy horizon and I get up, brush the sand off my butt, and reach for Silas’s hand. We move into the water ’til our feet no longer touch the ground, and watch the giant red ball become smaller, smaller, the size of a quarter and then…gone.
We’re swimming and floating, the sky turning shades of an Easter basket, when I spot a small crowd on the beach, directly in front of us. Heads are bent toward the ground. Cameras are snapped. A flash. Two. Iphones are pointed toward at the sand. But the characters are too far away for me to read the tale of their excitement.
Still, their fluttering hands and quivering shoulders keeps me watching. I follow their faces as they look toward us, the only people in the sea. And I’m watching the crowd so intently I almost miss the little black form swimming toward me.
I gasp. Reach out my hand.
And into my palm swims a baby sea turtle.
Her rough flippers continue to paddle in the center of my palm. They are about half the size of my pinky. Her head is the size of my thumbnail. Her leathery shell is an old wet book cover on a fresh, new story. It glistens dark, yet catches and holds the purple light.
I bring her to my lips to kiss her raisin-like head, and I remember the last kiss, the final kiss.
She exhaled one last time in my arms. And I couldn’t let her go. I held her long after she was gone, ‘til my arms grew heavy and numb.
I walked her into the kitchen, throwing away every one of her five medicine bottles. “No more of this three times a day! You’re free!” I tossed every one of them into the trash, holding her with one hand, throwing with the other. I imagined each thud against the garbage can a solid sigh of her relief. I gathered her food and water bowl, her blankets, the doggie stairs she grew to weak to use, and put them in the garage, while her body, still warm, lay curved in the crook of my arm, cradled against my neck. I clean her fur – dying can be a messy business – and then pulled out the paints. Pink was always her color, so I poured a pool of Baby’s Breath Pink onto a paper plate, placing her paw solidly into it. I walked her over to the wall – the one in the hallway full of handprints from family, friends, visitors. Finger-painted memories time stamped on a wall in bright, chaotic, glory.
I can no longer feel my arms, but I place her paw on the wall. One two three. Down down down, like she’s going somewhere. Maybe home.
My tears want to follow her. They chase her paw prints down down down, dropping into her fur at the end of my chin.
And at last, arms breaking, I lay her in snow. Her favorite element. Pink roses all around. The soft glow of candles encircling her, holding back the dark. And that last kiss, my lips burning, her head cold.
Still. Everything is so still. Twilight envelops us. And dark. And then all that remains is the silence. The quiet is a thick solid in an evaporating world.
The scratching of rough flippers on smooth skin brings me back. The world is liquid and movement. It fits in the palm of my hand. And it is paddling for home.
I want to keep this little beginning. To house her in a sink until we board a plane and somehow smuggle her into my life. I run through all the scenarios and sigh, lowering my hand into the water. All souls have their own destiny. And mine is to let go.
I place a kiss on her rubbery head. Wet and warm and alive. I whisper a blessing about long life and joy adventures, then sink my hand away. She’s paddling, already off, swimming toward a song only she can hear.
Something bumps against my ribs, as Silas whispers urgently, “Look!” Two, three, four, twelve. Little dark shapes moving through darkening water. I pick up each one I can reach. Kiss their heads. Let them go. And now I am swimming with them, keeping pace as we move out, out, out ‘til my arms grow tired. Then I’m just watching them as they disappear, no longer distinguishable in the shifts of twilight.
I roll over onto my back and let the water hold me.
One day, one of them will outlive me. She will outgrow my pain, outweigh my sadness. She will swim and play and feed and come ashore to birth someone else’s hope.
But tonight, the world is liquid and I am floating in a sea of tiny miracles.