Phyllis Britt

Phyllis Britt

Just when you think you have things all figured out, life has a way of knocking you down a peg.

Last week, I and my family were enjoying a week at Edisto. I find that at Edisto I feel closer to God, closer to my family, closer to peace. All those things that worry me seem to melt away, and I can take a little time to enjoy watching my family interact with one another.

This year, I have loved watching how my grandchildren react to the beach. I grew up on the coast, so while the ocean calls me, I’m also reminded that the sea deserves some healthy respect.

My two oldest grandchildren, Ariah, 14, and Cade, 11, are both good swimmers and love riding the waves, diving into the undulating surf, coasting into shore. I watched them both spend hours doing just that – and doing it side-by-side, even though in “real” life they are just enough separated in age that they don’t do much together.

Then there’s Payton, 9. She spent the week mothering granddaughters Pearce, 6, and Clarke, 4. Yes, there were times that she became a little exasperated at feeling she had to constantly help her younger cousins out (despite our telling her that she didn’t have to be responsible for them). But mostly, she was happy helping the younger girls dress, get to bed, etc. And at the beach, Payton joined Clarke and Pearce as they ran in and out of the surf, built sand castles and searched for seashells. Her dad didn’t come this year, so she didn’t get a lot of time to swim in the deeper water, but again, she mostly enjoyed being in charge.

Meanwhile, Pearce and Clarke have grown so much in a year. Last year Clarke was very content to stay away from the water and play in the sand. This year with swimmies on, she learned what fun it is to run in and out of the crashing waves. At the same time, Pearce is on the verge of truly swimming and is sure she no longer needs her swimmies. We had a difficult time keeping her in them. She’d rather stay in shallower water than wear the swimming aids so she could go into deeper water.

My other two grandchildren, Thomas, 4, and Maddie, 2, were at the beach as well. Thomas has a healthy respect for the water but is thrilled for his dad to take him out into the deeper water and ride the waves – that is, until a wave splashes in his face.

But the most fun to watch this year was Maddie. The first few days at the beach she was unwilling to let the water touch her. She would race toward the water, and then as the water flowed back onto the shore, she would run away – careful never to allow the ocean to lap up onto so much as one toe. But by the fifth day at the beach, Maddie would stand with her arms stretched wide, her back to the ocean as the water came crashing toward her. A couple of times the water crashed over her, and she didn’t miss a step – she’d get right back up and do it again. The sheer joy on her face at those times spoke volumes about what a trip to the beach should be about – time to relax, rejuvenate, rewind and rejoice.

By Friday I was fully into the calm, the joy, the carefree-ness of Edisto.

And then I opened my emails. Among the mundane emails of day-to-day life was an announcement of the death of a church member whom I was pleased to call a friend.

John was someone who appeared to be doing his best to make the most out of this life. He and his wife obviously cared for each other deeply. He was involved in our community in civic groups as well as church – contributing mightily to make this world a better place. He and I were on the deacon board at church together, and I found his sense of humor infectious and his caring attitude inspiring. He didn’t take himself too seriously and didn’t spend a lot of energy worrying about what life had in store but again tried to do what he could to love his neighbor. Then we were in a Covenant group together. (Some churches call them small groups.) There, all the members learned a little more about one another. John and his wife had worried about a daughter who had struggled with pregnancy but were able very recently to rejoice at the birth of a much-anticipated and loved granddaughter. In retrospect, I’m so glad John was able to meet his precious granddaughter before his death.

Last week John had a massive heart attack in the middle of the night. As far as I know, there was no warning, no chance for him or his family to prepare for his untimely demise.

Fortunately, his family and friends can take some comfort in the assurance that he is now safely enfolded in the arms of God. But the suddenness of his leaving this world will surely take its toll. I’m having trouble coming to terms with his death; I can only remotely imagine what it must be like for his wife and family.

All this has served to remind me that we simply don’t know what tomorrow holds for us, that we should strive to live each day as though it may be our last, to right wrongs where we can and to let those around us know regularly what they mean to us.

I am truly sorry my friend is no longer with us. I hope he knew how much his presence in my life meant to me. Rest in peace, John. You will be missed.