Thursday, April 15, 2010

One Last Visit to the Beach, On Her Doorstep

I need to share a powerful and strangely wonderful event in my life that involves death and cancer. I am certain you are struggling with the fact that I am using the words wonderful, cancer and death in the same sentence. I think that after you hear this story you will agree that in this case it is an appropriate combination of words.

A dear friend of mine was dying of cancer. Shortly before she died she shared with me that she was very sad that she would never get to go to the beach again. She grew up near the ocean and it was a special place for her. The cancer had made her too weak to travel the 4-5 hours from her home to the ocean. I shared this with several of her friends and we decided we had to do something about it.

On a Saturday afternoon in June, while her family kept her distracted and away from the windows, the plan unfolded. We dumped three tons of white beach sand in her driveway. After the sand was spread about, out came the two cabanas, beach balls, pails, shovels, boogie boards, beach chairs, a variety of decorations and a fire pit for the bonfire on the beach at night. We even rented a sno-cone machine since it had gotten to the point where flavored ice was about all she was able to eat. There were two CDs playing. One was the sounds of waves breaking on the beach and the other alternated between The Beach Boys and Jimmy Buffett.

When all was in place, her daughter brought her out to her private beach where she was greeted by a few dozen friends dressed in flowered shirts. She came out of the house with some new flip-flops and a beach bag (where else would a beach going cancer patient keep her morphine drip). We shed a tear or two that day, but it was mostly filled with laughs, grins and most of all love. The guest of honor was given a squirt gun and allowed to squirt anyone at will. The day ended with a fire on her beach and s'mores for everyone.

She died two weeks later but made it out to her beach four or five more times before she left us. I guess the message of this story is that when someone is in need, we need to think out of the proverbial box for ways to help. And the next time someone tries to sell you some oceanfront land in Kansas, you might just want to check it out.

-- Tom Gerdy (http://www.helpother.org/)

2 comments:

Steven said...

If you have a friend in a similar situation, would you do this all the way just as the author did?

This is what true friends will do for you.

Jason Lee said...

Very touching story.