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Can we go to the beach?

James Warren September 22, 2022
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She said, “Can we go to the beach?”

I hadn’t realized it at the time, but a picture I recently shared of my sister and me was of a time we went to the beach together, a couple of months after our mom died in 2013. Maya always loved being near the water in general, and at the beach in particular. She often sought it out as a place of healing and restoration. This has been true of Maya as long as I’ve known her, especially during difficult times.

Back in 2008, our family was going through a very rough time. Maya and Mom were still living in New York at the time, but they needed to move. Mom’s health wasn’t great, and Maya wasn’t doing very well either, so after we asked my cousin and a couple of friends in NYC to check on her, Darcy and I drove up from Richmond to see her and figure out what we all could do to help her get well. I knocked on the door for a while. Initially, no answer. I kept knocking. When I finally got her to come to the door, initially she didn’t want to talk. So I sat with her for a while. I asked, “What do you want to do, Maya?” She was silent. I asked, “What can I do to help?” Still, silence. Then, she looked at me, a faint spark of hope in her eyes, and she said, “Can we go to the beach?” So that’s what we did. We want to Far Rockaway and sat on the boardwalk for hours, still not saying much — although the wind and the waves had a lot to say that day. Eventually, she started to talk, and talking led to trust, and trust led to us taking things one step at a time. We got Mom and Maya moved out. Mom moved to Richmond that summer. Maya moved to Richmond later that year. And we picked up pieces, bit by bit.

Now, Maya is gone, but not gone. And her words still speak to me. “Can we go to the beach?”

“Yes, Mia-Maya, we can go to the beach.”

So here we are. At the place where Maya always longed to be, where Maya always went to find peace, where perhaps healing still waits for us, and her presence is near. Where the sun meets the sea and the sea meets the sand.

I love you, Maya. Forever and ever.

Please #CheckIn on your family, your friends, your neighbors and your colleagues. Make time to listen, even if you are sitting together in silence. In my experience, that is often the first part of the communication for people who feel overburdened, and whenever I’ve felt like that, I know I need time to unspool, before I can begin to speak. And for people who are carrying a heavy load, they aren’t always sure we are truly here for them, even when we believe we are. Being comfortable with waiting for them to speak can be one of the ways you can help. Being with them in the places of their choosing can be one of the ways you can help.

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