This afternoon, after a somewhat stressful day, I loaded my kayak onto the truck and visited Utah Lake. There were all kinds of wind-surfers, kite-boarders and…me.
Only one and a half hours before, my Mom had called me and asked if I’d like to speak to Grandma, possibly for the last time. Mom held the phone up to Grandma and I told her how much I loved her and that she had lived a good life in this world. I told her that I’d miss her, but that I’d look forward to seeing her, again. When Mom came back on the phone, we cried and talked a little more. Then we hung up so that Grandma could listen to more people tell her how much she is loved.
I had parked on the south finger of the Utah Lake State Park marina and watched as the waves rose and crashed on the rocks around me. Two windsurfers made the trek south, but would come in, again and again, toward me and then back out…one of their passes, I became self-conscious and felt obligated to enter the water.
My feet felt their way, carefully, and eventually I slipped into the water. It felt cool and refreshing, so I plunged my head under and enjoyed feeling the waves move me up and down, several feet in elevation. After my goggles were in place, I started swimming out, toward the choppy waves, which reminded me more of the ocean that I’d seen in Hawaii, this winter, than the usually docile Utah Lake which surrounded me.
It was hard to find a rhythm. Waves fell over me, sometimes slapping into my face, as I reached out further toward the sun, setting, as Venus passed right over it. We won’t see that phenomenon for another 105 years. The water eventually became high enough, that I considered going back to the truck. But I swam further around the marina and got out. I walked down toward my truck, but the temptation was too great. I jumped back in, on the marina side, this time- safer in the only slightly-choppy, warmer water.
As I swam my last couple-hundred meters, I could hear my phone ringing in my Swimmer’s Safety Device. It’s too difficult to get to things inside the SSD, when swimming, so I only open it all up in an emergency (or if there’s some downtime.) But when I climbed out of the water and reached my truck, I saw that Wendy had called.
I called her back and she told me that Grandma had just passed away. By chance, Wendy had called my Mom, just as Grandma slipped away. After a short conversation with Wendy, I realized that she must have passed away as I was negotiating some of the bigger waves that were hitting me on the lake.
For some reason -and I can’t explain this- that makes me happy. I’m happy that it happened while I was swimming. There is something so comforting in open water for me. It reminds me that long before this century, there have been billions of people navigating and exploring this world, raising families, living and then moving on- just like us. The water has seen it all and seems symbolic of life and eternity. Time changes, but the water keeps lapping at the shores while we wear out our lives and eventually, well- we die, too.
Somewhere outside of this life, I’d like to think that there are open waters waiting for us (man, I really hope this is true), many of which are already discovered and mapped out by our ancestors. Maybe close family members- grandfathers, grandmothers, fathers, mothers (and sometimes children) wait to show us around new shorelines, where we can become reacquainted and spend the rest of eternity together. In my heart, I believe that this is close to the truth.
For now, my grandma has finally moved on to a pain-free world, reunited with my grandpa and others she loves. Her children, grandchildren, friends, another family members have wonderful and sometimes funny memories with her. One of my favorite memories was on the day of someone’s wedding (can’t remember the couple), when Grandma left a cake on top of her car. We drove for a couple of miles before she all but hit the brakes, looked at me, and said something like, “The cake!”
The cake was fine. She retrieved it, carefully secured it in the car, got in her seat and turned to face me, sternly. “You don’t tell anyone about this”, she warned.
I already miss her.