Sitting here in the house down at Holden Beach looking out over the canal that is fed by the inland waterway, I think back to the days of so many years ago when I was a child. The summer weekends my family spent at Sand -N- Sea Campground. The laughter, the friendships, and the food. The kite flying, playing on the beach and the nights spent in the waterway floundering and scooping up crab. My dad calling us into the camper so we could watch former President Richard Nixon resign on a thirteen inch black and white TV. He wanted us to witness a piece of history. The friends that joined us almost every weekend and the new friends we made. These memories will forever be etched in chronicle’s of my mind. Life is about making memories with family and friends, life is about triumph and tragedy, life is about living. I watched a movie today, “My Sister’s Keeper,” it was the first time I have ever watched this movie. A movie in which the parents basically created a second child to be a match for donating to their first daughter who had leukemia. In the end it was the sick sister that had had enough. The daughter with leukemia asked her younger sister to put a stop to all the operations, the blood work, the marrow extractions and to just let her live for whatever time she had left. The whole time the sick daughter kept a scrap book of memories, memories of all the good and bad times. It took the younger daughter suing her parents to stop them from using her as a human medicine cabinet for her sick sister. So many times the sick young lady had told her parents to let her live out her live and stop putting her younger sister in danger of losing her own life as well. When your child is lying in a hospital bed and they are clinging to life you feel you would do anything to save them. But when that child tells you they are tired, they are done with all the testing, when in your heart you, as a parent, know the there is nothing else that can be done, you have to let go. Never in my life did I ever imagine myself and Lindsay’s mom having to face this decision. But just like in the movie it was Lindsay that let us know she was ready, it was time. Even though she never regained consciousness from the day of her accident, her body was telling us. This movie brought back so many emotions when the parents finally realized and excepted what their daughter was telling them.
Letting go is part of being a parent, the fear, the anxiety, the unknown, the loss of control. From the first time they ride their bike around the block alone to the first day of school. First time standing at the plate waiting on the first pitch. First time on stage spinning and dancing in their rhinestone and lace costume. Driving, this, at their early age, is somewhat the crescendo of letting go. Proms, parties, graduation, weddings, with every day of a child’s life, we as parents, ever so slightly have to let go . Those of us that have lost a child know all too well about letting go. When a child rides their bike or dances on a stage, they come back. When you see them off to the prom or a date, there is a very good chance they will return home safe and sound. Even when a child gets married they will still be there for you to see, touch and talk to. When a parent watches their child take their last breath and can feel their last heartbeat, that is the pinnacle of letting go. They will never come back, they will never speak to you again. They will never come walking through the door, arms open for a hug. Never again will you get to help them solve all their earth shattering problems. You kiss them goodbye, tell them you love them and then you let go. Through all the heartbreak, the pain, the anguish, the loneliness and the grief, you realize what you have let go of. You have let go of a part of your heart and soul that leaves a gaping hole that in your mind will never be healed or filled again. Another part of letting go when you lose a child is letting go of their personal belongings. When? To whom? Where? What do I keep? What do I donate? All these questions can be answered with one statement, “When you are ready.” It could be a week, a month, a year, or mutable years before you are ready to let go. Only the parents of a lost child will know when that time comes and when it does you will be able to let go. For me, I am still waiting.
Letting go is hard, the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. but I have come to realize that what I let go of was an earthly shell to carry Lindsay’s heart and soul for the short period she was here with us. Lindsay is still with me every day, her presence is always near. She is still working in peoples lives. Her tragedy has brought so much triumph to others and will continue to through her Foundation. I will never have to let go of the memories, they are mine and nothing can take them away. Just like the memories of camping right here at Holden Beach when I was young, those memories of Lindsay are forever ingrained in my heart and mind.
I was so lucky to be able to create new and lasting memories with Lindsay here at the beach. The walks, wading through the shallow waves, looking for shells and of course taking pictures. Her, somehow, getting all 5′ 10″ in a swing built for two and taking naps in the shade. Getting right down on the floor and playing with Kathy’s two pup’s, Rocky and Pudgie. Laughing in that loud, ear shattering laugh, the day I fell out of the boat. I, myself, saw no humor in that at all. She thought it was so cool that we would dock at a restaurant and have lunch. Lindsay and Mary playing science in the mud. Lindsay and Heather fighting with their hair and losing to the wind. The last time we were in the boat was not long before Lindsay passed away. Kelli’s grandson was here, and we all went out for a ride. We stopped and anchored up so Kelli could take Vinny out in the water to play for a while. We all got in the water and after a while Lindsay climbed back in the boat. Kelli asked her to grab her phone and take some pictures of Vinny playing. When Kelli got back in the boat and looked at her phone there were pictures of her and Vinny playing and and a few others. This selfie is my little girl, beautiful freckles and all. I thank God everyday for this one picture. I can see her with no makeup, her hair a mess and that beautiful smile. That was my Lindsay Girl.
I never got back in that boat and have recently let it go, but the memories, like all the others, are mine for a lifetime.