It’s been a while since I posted any updates. The new school year has begun, so I’m afraid my blog won’t be as high on the priority list as it was during the summer when I posted once a week. Hopefully I can still encourage others by sharing my experiences and what God has been teaching me since Kristen died almost 18 months ago.
My children, my parents, and I went to the beach the first week of August. It was so much fun! I’d been so busy for so long that setting aside time to relax and put my responsibilities on hold was the most wonderful experience. I actually got to spend some time at a small arcade playing Ms. Pac Man (and getting the high score, I might add :-))
We had gone to the beach the previous year, but that vacation was different. Kristen had only been gone for 4 months at that time, and I just needed to get away from everything and everyone. I spent much of that trip alone, quietly reflecting on the life I once had, trying to escape the one I was now living. Sometimes dreams and fantasies were the only ways I could cope with my pain. I missed Kristen deeply when I was at the beach last year, and sometimes that made it hard for me to have fun. I felt guilty being on vacation without her. Every time I caught myself having fun, I’d remember Kristen’s absence, and somehow it didn’t feel right to be having fun without her. It took me a long time to stop feeling that way.
This year I spent most of my time on the beach with Elizabeth. Ian is only 1, so sand and ocean waves are more like curiosities to him than fun adventures. But I still took him out so he could have the experience—and to take pictures, of course. I loved watching his reactions. I can tell he’s thinking when he tries something new. He would put a tiny part of his fingertip into the sand, hesitate for a moment, then think about what to do next. He’s my analytical little man!
Elizabeth and I built sandcastles, dug holes, jumped over waves, and stood waist-deep in the ocean and let the waves splash into us. I did not go to the beach much when I was growing up, so having the opportunity to be playful with my 6-year-old daughter is a real treat. Some evenings we would go back out to the beach to walk around and find seashells. It’s funny how different a child’s taste can be from a parent’s. I prefer smoother shells that are mostly in tact without any obvious holes or blemishes. Elizabeth is drawn to anything out of the ordinary. If a shell was a strange shape or an odd color, then that was the one she picked up. We probably have about 100 sea shells at home right now.
One of my proudest moments came when Elizabeth wanted to ride a boogie board. She had seen other kids doing it, so she thought she’d give it a shot. The only problem was that she was afraid of going out into the water and turning her back on the ocean to let the waves carry her to shore. As her father, I don’t like to watch her struggle, though I also don’t want to fix things for her, but I do feel it’s my responsibility to help her overcome her fears. So I held her in my arms, carried her into the water, set her down, and told her to get on the board. She was still afraid, but just knowing I was next to her gave her newfound confidence. The very next wave whisked her ashore, and the grin on her face, the excitement in her voice was priceless.
I built lasting memories with my kids this summer. This vacation wasn’t about escaping my reality but embracing it. I still miss Kristen, but it’s been nearly 18 months since she died, and I don’t grieve over her with the same intensity I once did. I’ve learned to keep living, for my children ‘s sakes and my own. I draw my strength from God, and He equips me with everything I need. I am very thankful that I had this opportunity with my kids. I don’t know how much time I have left on this earth. All I can do is cherish the time I do have, make the most of the opportunities in front of me, and leave the rest to God.
That’s all any of us can do.