I’ve never seen a sunset I just felt average about. Every sunrise and sunset is like witnessing magic. I’m always in awe, and if I ever need a reminder that there is some kind of higher power out there, all I have to do is look up.
But there was something just ethereal about the sunset at this particular beach, on one particular night in San Diego. Perhaps it was because it had been a challenging day. (Our AirBnb doesn’t have air conditioning – totally fine but just really challenging to sleep some nights – and the smoke alarm kept malfunctioning and going off this night which made sleep impossible.) Coming out of a rough night’s sleep and a frustrating day of work on a Friday, I couldn’t be more ready to shut my computer and get out of the house.
We drove to Torrey Pines City Beach and hiked down from the cliffside to get to the actual beach (be prepared if you take this walk, it’s longer than you think but it’s all paved and it is so worth it). After walking just a few minutes down the beach, we found ourselves in a spot all to ourselves right around 4:30 pm.
Stephen packed PB+Js, one of my all time favorite snacks, and it was just the ticket at this particular moment. Dolphins were jumping in the water. Seals were swimming. Pelicans dove just feet in front of us as the tide was rising to catch their dinner. Paragliders from the nearby Gliderport entertained us from above the cliffs.
And as the sun started to set, incredible cloud formations made for a next level iMax viewing experience in every direction around us.
This week in September marks the one year anniversary of my grandfather’s passing. I felt his presence so boldly on this beach that evening. Watching the expansive horizon, it was like a little window into heaven.
Perhaps you feel these moments in life, too. Moments that feel so simple and yet so profound. Moments that when you look back, words don’t really do them justice. It’s something about the sweetness of just being inside of the moment. It kind of reminds of the week I spent in the hospital with Grandaddy. Immense sadness, of course, but also filled with pure grace. Like we were all floating, all of us in the room with him. Dancing our way to the finish line and holding his hand the whole way there.
I believe the experience of being with my grandfather at the end of his life was one of the greatest gifts I could receive. Every time my mind goes back to the time in the hospital, and I recall what it was like standing in his room, coming to grips with the fact that it would be the last few days with him on earth, my initial reaction is a wave of sadness. But almost immediately following, the sadness drifts away and turns to the feeling much like falling onto a soft, cushiony bed with cool sheets and feathered pillows. It was the feeling of being surrounded by love and choosing to be the observer of the wild, magnificent, temporariness of our one precious life. In that hospital room, we held space to mourn and grieve and feel everything. And when it came time to walk him out, we knew we had a duty – and the honor – to help him pass well.
In life, we are always experiencing the birth and death of various phases of life. Experiences, places, communities, individuals, and chapters that we move through. The word “death” itself is one we don’t want to go near as a culture, but we are forever confronted by endings and beginnings. Much like the changing of seasons.
I used to be the person to tell you that I HATED fall because it meant summer was over. I didn’t (and still don’t always) handle change gracefully. But I am learning. Summer has its place, and so does fall. We need one to have and to appreciate the other. It’s what makes each chapter, each phase of life, poignant.
In the words of Alan Watts,
So the word “transition” is really sticking with me right now. The nature of the changing of seasons, the shift towards tuning more inward. And the now annual reminder of this very transformative moment of my life – being with my grandfather as he moved from one energy form to the next – will continue to shape how I view transitions in life.
I hope that I’ll learn to accept and embrace change in bigger ways as I continue to learn and embrace this lesson – that there is nothing constant but change – but in the smallest of ways, too. Like watching the sunset at Torrey Pines.
On that particular night, watching how the ocean current danced and swirled across the horizon, glistening in the last of the sunlight, I felt the first chill of fall in the air. I put on my sweater, still digging my toes into the cold sand to soak in the last feeling of summer. And even though I didn’t want to blink, didn’t want to miss a single second of this sunset, I felt a sense of comfort about the shift from bright sunshine to evening, from blazing summer to the crisp fall. Comfort I don’t usually feel. I believe I have my grandfather to thank for that, among so many other things.
I let my mind wander, just imagining what Grandaddy was doing at that very moment. It also occurred to me that I needn’t stretch my imagination too far. This kind of night at the beach had him written all over it, and I’m certain he and my grandmother were sitting right beside us enjoying the view of the ocean, too.