She sat for all of us.
The white-haired woman wore a wet suit and a calm demeanor that morning along the shores of the Pacific Ocean. She faced forward, moving only to steady herself each time the waves pushed against her body. I'll never know if she noticed the seventeen of us who had been dancing down the beach from her earlier. I'll never know if she saw us slowly walking towards her in a line similar to the horizon she looked upon. With our hands clasped together, our hearts beating in time with each other's and with hers, we brought this line of love close to where she sat. I'll never know if she felt our presence as we stood a few feet behind her for several minutes. But I do know this...we noticed her and she moved us in ways that will stay with us forever.
What was this woman's story? What brought her here on this morning to sit steadfast in the surge and swirl of the sea? I'll never know, but I do know this..we, who witnessed and shared this experience, will always remember what it meant to each of us.
What I remember and what it meant to me...
I remember seeing this woman for the first time and being drawn to move near her. I remember looking up and down our line of dancers gaining acknowledgement for us to proceed. I remember suddenly feeling overwhelmed by all the emotions I was experiencing. I remember watching the back of her body and seeing her head shake from time to time. I remember how the water splashed firmly against her chest. I remember the seagulls and pelicans soaring above us and all those birds that began diving headfirst into the water. I remember the way my hands were held by the two other people standing beside me. I remember the music playing in my ears and thinking how that song couldn't have been more perfect for the moment we were in. I remember wanting to stand there forever. I remember taking the two hands that had held onto mine and bringing them together before I made my way to the front of the line and led us away from her. I remember all of us standing in a circle with our hands still joined, looking at all of our beautiful faces while listening to how I felt, perhaps how we all felt, through the heavy, gorgeous tears of the friend who stood beside me.
As I stood watching her and the waves that splashed across her chest, the stories I saw were my own. She sat for her father who has a chronic lung disease she can't do anything to cure or curtail the behavior that caused it to appear. She sat for her grandmother whose life will soon come to an end. She sat for her sister who wishes to find a safe place for her son to grow up in. She sat for her friends who are experiencing health crises that have altered their way of living. She sat for her husband who works long hours and wants to be free of the constant stress he feels. She sat for her mother, her aunt, her cousin and her cat. She sat in silence despite all the noise in her head.
She sat for the anger and sadness she had ever felt. She sat for compassion, forgiveness and acceptance of all she had ever done wrong and everything she still cannot understand. She sat for her own healing and for the world's. She sat for love.
So when I returned from the Northern California shoreline where this woman had sat to the one that shares the same ocean on the island where I live, I sat like she did and let the waves wash over me. I let the waters soothe the anguish I felt from the tragedy that happened last week at a college I once attended in my home town. I let the waters rush over me taking everything I wonder and worry about out to sea. I let the tears fall and the wail release from my throat. I sat there in the sand staring out beyond the horizon and thanked the woman I'll never know who showed me how to sit still in the chaos of it all and be with everything I feel.
She was me. I am her. We are one.