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waves at the beach

March 8, 2009
the shoreline 2008

the shoreline 2008

One of the things I love the most about Michigan is the lake.  People who’ve never seen one of the Great Lakes often don’t realize how incredible the vast basins of fresh water are.  While I absolutely enjoy  a summertime escape to the beach, I also enjoy a winter beach excursion.  Lake Michigan during winter is awe-inspiring.  The ice and sand create unique and varied formations along the shoreline, and beyond that are waves of ice frozen in time.

Today was the Second Annual Waves At The Beach: A Tribute to Patricia Ann Schwartz, which has become a tradition for me and my sisters.  We head to the beach at the dawn of March to honor our Grandma, whose battle with cancer ended victoriously on March 9, 2003.  The Sunday after the funeral, those of us living in town (Mom, Dad, Ang, Jeffrey, Rita and me) went for a walk on the beach.  Last year was the five year anniversary and I decided a special trip to the beach would be fitting, considering the cemetery is on the other side of the state and was still covered in snow.

ice rocks 2008

ice rocks 2008

To the beach we went!  Ang, Rita and I were the only ones to make the trip last year.  It was a great adventure: we skated on the ice in our boots, explored the natural ice sculptures and deep crevasses, and conquered the tallest ice peaks.  When we made it to the top of the highest point, we stopped to pay tribute to Grandma: we did the Grandma Wave.

Every time we left my grandparents’ house, Grandma would stand at the door and wave good-bye until we were out of sight.  It became a tradition that soothed the sting of leaving.  Over the years, she developed a routine which the grandkids rightfully christened “The Grandma Wave”.  As Dad pulled out of the driveway, there was a flurry of conversation as we hung out of the windows, even in winter, to wave back: “Look for the wave!  Can you see her?  Move your head – you are blocking my view!  There’s the wave!  Hurray, that’s my favorite part!  Oooo… she added a new move!”  Gram would get smaller and smaller as the distance between us increased but we would strain our eyes to see her until Dad turned the corner.

the wave 2008

the wave 2008

This gesture was so important to us that the entire family waved good-bye after the internment service.  We walked away from the grave site and stood by our cars.  There was a sense of finality that none of us were ready to embrace.  That’s when my dad mentioned the Wave.  “You know, it seems only right that we all wave good-bye.”  We knew exactly what he meant.  We turned toward the open grave, sons and daughters, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law, grandsons and granddaughters, and we waved.  With our hands flying through air, we were soon remembering different parts of the Wave, laughing and teasing each other about the other’s waving style.  Our good-bye was complete, and once again, Grandma and her wave eased the pain of a parting.

melting ice 2009

melting ice 2009

Which brings me to this year’s Waves at the Beach.  Mom joined the determined adventurers on our mission to pay tribute to Grandma.  The day was gray, damp and cold.  Gusts of wind nearly blew us off our feet.  Rain and sleet pelted us mercilessly.  But nothing was going to keep us from upholding a tradition.

We made our way to the beach, but didn’t climb the ice waves.  The recent temperature warm-up caused a shrinkage the frozen dunes, making them too dangerous to walk on.  So we found a small sand dune, climbed to the top and waved to Grandma in heaven.  Mission complete.

We stopped at a coffee shop on the way home to warm up and laugh about our adventure.  I found the experience exhilarating, but Ang claimed she almost died from exhilaration (I think she was referring to the wind).  Most of all, we were comforted.  Waving to Gram at the beach, where she can be sure to see us, brings comfort.  Whenever she waved good-bye to us, we knew it meant she would see us again soon.  Now we remind her every year that we will see her some day when it is our turn to go Home.

waves at the beach 2009

waves at the beach 2009

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