My Granny: my crafting queen, a story teller, a world traveler, a lover and collector of the finer things in life, a brave and adventurous woman, a proud southerner, bold and set in her ways, unconditionally loving, radiant and smiling up to the end of her almost 92 years.
Oh how I miss her.
This journey I am on began with the twist of events that occurred when her sprit left her body three weeks before I was scheduled to arrive in Georgia to pack her bags. She had agreed to try out living in my sister’s house in Southern California as we were attempting to set her up for more consistent care and company as she moved into the final years of her life. She was conflicted, feeling like a “puzzle of confusion” she told me this summer, in her decision to leave her precious home and the comfort of being in her hometown of Macon, Georgia.
After we completed the dismantling of her estate this fall, I was left with no job, no children in my home, no boyfriend, and no Granny to take care of. I considered my options, since my Granny’s spirit had chosen her own grand adventure and left me without my intended plan.
In my years of grieving the loss of my partner, I had found my way back to sailing – the activity we had discovered a mutual love for together. I had overcome the emotional and physical challenges of taking our 22’ sailboat out without him and knew that I loved the freedom of sailing and being on the water in close harmony with the spirit of my beloved.
Through the wonders of the internet, I discovered a world of people with sailboats in need of assistance and company, and in a few short weeks I chose a skipper who’s lifestyle sounded similar to the way I enjoy traveling. I bought a plane ticket to Panama, bravely packed my backpack, tried to reassure my worried friends and family, and moved out of my cabin, leaving the safety net of my home and my dog behind. In searching for the cheapest day to fly, I ended up purchasing my ticket to depart on the day that would’ve been my Granny’s 92nd birthday. Upon the sudden realization of the significance of my departure date, I was overcome with big tears of grief and gratitude, and I smiled and laughed through them, knowing that this was a sign that my Granny wanted me to take this adventure in her honor.
There have been many moments in my 3 months of traveling where I feel her spirit is looking out for me, steering me towards loving, compassionate people and wonderful boats to stay on, grand adventures, and extreme natural beauty. She is my guardian angel and is traveling with me deep in my heart.
Lately I have been thinking of her love for telling the stories of her family and adventurous life. One of my goals this year was to record her storytelling in audio format. Since that is no longer possible, I have created new projects for myself. Two of them being related to story telling: I have begun writing travel blog posts again and have picked back up my work on the book about community therapy and survival that I had started in the year after Jameson’s death. Every time I question why I am choosing to write, I am reminded of how much listening to my Granny’s stories inspired me – how captivated I was by hearing about her life and I am reminded of how she’d want me to be out here creating my own life stories filled with adventures and international friendships. Knowing the joy and importance of sharing our stories and our perspectives on life is one of the many gifts my Granny gave me, and in this year of learning how to live in the wake of her legacy, I trust that writing my own stories is a valuable use of my time. In hopes that they will stir a spark of inspiration, hope, and courage for those who read them, I continue to write.
I chose a get a tattoo this year that is big and bold in size for me: a design that I had drawn for years, that over time has come to represent following the guidance my own intuitive compass. Now that it is in a prominent place on my forearm, it reminds me daily that I have a limited time left in this human form, and that I should be thoughtful about how I choose to spend my remaining days, weeks, or years on this planet. I have been blessed with many gifts and challenges in my lifetime and it feels of utmost importance to choose which of those gifts I want to offer back to this planet and the people I come into contact with. I’d like to leave something of value on this Earth when my spirit departs my body, and writing has of late, become my creative outlet to share in a wider scope the depths of my soul, my adventures, perspectives, and hopefully offer words of hope to survivors in dark nights of the soul.
I am also making plenty of time for myself to continue this walk of weaving grief and gratitude and healing. Embracing the practice of allowing myself to deeply listen to what I truly need, I have chosen to live alone on a lovely sailboat in a peaceful and safe marina with a long beach nearby for the time being. Here I am helping a lovely and inspiring female German sailor who is preparing to sell this sailing vessel that was her home with her husband for twenty years. She inherited a second boat that she is now living on, from the woman sailor she fell in love with after her divorce. Three years ago she midwifed her lover through death. We have had an amazing experience sharing our grief and gratitude for life together as we empty her boat of her life’s past chapters. It is incredible to have found such an inspiring woman sailor who also knows the grief of unraveling a life after the death of a partner. I have been fortunate to have made a few friends here and have slipped into a simple routine of doing yoga on the beach everyday, swimming, cooking, writing, socializing, and caring for this sailboat called Nautibear.
The sailing option that I passed up to be here was a wildly adventurous 800-mile sail to Guatemala on a delivery with the skipper of my last sailboat. It was an interesting decision to make, knowing that either choice was going to have advantages and lead me on a very divergent path for the rest of my trip. Ultimately, I knew I made the right decision, as presently my body needs more time to rest and recover and my long distance sail opportunity will come again when the time is right. For now, that is not the story I will be telling.
This chapter is about prayer walks, self-care, slowing down even more, providing assistance and love to those around me, and learning to be ok with my choices. The beach here has special significance to me, as before I decided to live on this boat, I passed though the marina on my journey back from the San Blas archipelago. On that day, just before our departure from San Blas, I had created a simple ceremony for releasing my Granny’s spirit, swimming to a small coral reef and placing a pearl from her necklace in a clamshell.
The grief of losing her moved through me during the 40-mile sail to this marina, and when we arrived I took a long walk on the beach I now walk on everyday. On that particular walk with my Granny’s sprit close to my heart, I found multiple tiny sand dollars, which always remind me of her, as we used to collect them on the Georgia coast together when I was young. As a cried a few tears in the wave of acceptance of letting her physical form and spirit go, a rainbow came out over the sea, reminding me of the beauty of life on this planet, the continued presence of her spirit, and that nothing is permanent.
In the day that I was here in this marina, making the difficult decision of which different sailboat option to chose (the two I had miraculously found were within 20 feet of each other) I went for another walk on this beach. During that walk I found a cherished gift from the sea that I have only seen a few times in my many days of exploring shorelines – a perfect and delicate spiral that inspired the base form on the tattoo now on my arm. It is the golden mean – the spiral shape that resonates deeply with most people, reminding us of the harmony and beauty that comes together in the balanced and magical formula repeated time and time again in the natural world.
I have come to learn that this small, delicate, and rare shell is called spirula, and is the internal support for a small deep-sea squid.
I choose to stay observant and curious about my world, and in times when I am conflicted by the options that present themselves to me, I look for signs – breadcrumbs along the path, that come in many forms. I trust in my intuitive compass and my guardian angels and ancestor spirits to guide me in making the best decisions. I don’t feel that I have been led astray so far. In this new chapter of my life, I am putting more intention into focusing my time and creations on a balance of giving to myself, to the people and natural world around me and being in the present moment. I am moving my focus towards creating a legacy that will inspire and sustain others once I am no longer walking and swimming on this Earth.
And now dear reader, if you have made it this far, I offer you gratitude and leave you with some guiding questions:
Who’s footsteps will you walk in? What kind of relationships do you want to cultivate with your friends, family, and the natural world? How are you balancing your precious time in your physical form? Which of your gifts do you want to share? What will your legacy be?
Thank you for reading. I love you.
This is beautiful. Moving through the loss of my mom and stepdad I have realized that it is definitely a journey that I will travel the rest of my life. I am envious of your physical journey.
This is a gift, cousin. I’m glad you’re remembering our granny in this way. Molly and I have been moving into a new house. While I was under sinks replacing 5 faucets and talking to a friend on speakerphone – and today installing the old original doorbell from my mom’s old 1940s era bungalow in West Point into my new home (built in the 30s), I have been reflecting on many things about my mom. Namely the quality she inherited from Papa and Granny about helping and loving people regardless of who they are. This is something they got no doubt from both papa’s upbringing and some pretty complicated war-time experiences where they had the worst of times but made the best of friends, but I don’t want to say that it wasn’t because of their own parents and grandparents. I think this stuff is “in our blood”. Anyway, my mom tended to love people no matter what with a lot of intent and bravado in our small southern town. Bravado is her word. She used it in many conversations I had with her. She sometimes used the words “Bravado and ignorance” the way others might say “throwing caution to the wind” – like the time she had a spinal tap in macon to relieve fluid pressure after another procedure related to her MS – on the same day the storied flood waters rose in Macon in 1994. She couldn’t drive. She said I drove her through those flood waters with “bravado and ignorance”. We made it over the last open bridge in the macon area – out of our way getting back to West Point, but we made it. And my mom made it through her disease with “bravado and ignorance” for another 23 years. I’ll have to be honest I haven’t fully processed Granny yet. As I write this I’m reflecting on some of my conversations with Granny at Granny’s last hospital visit. I was there for a day and we talked a lot about past events. Granny’s memory was pretty detailed, something that I have inherited from her, so I remember all these little details, and part of what I am processing about granny is these details. As I have learned with mom, it often takes a while to piece all the details together to find what Granny’s life fully means to me. My mom’s – I think I’ll never give her full credit for what she did well and fully reap those benefits. And hopefully I will not be as bitter as I could be about the things that were not right. I think the grieving process takes time. Maybe one’s whole life.. My grandfather on my dad’s side visited graves of our ancestors regularly to put fresh flowers there, and I accompanied him on those trips fairly regularly as a boy and a teenager. He seemed to grieve his entire life, but he was also the great story teller of the family. I heard the same stories over and over again, so luckily I still remember people I didn’t even meet, but are important in my family history. I’m only now understanding the sentiment of fresh flowers 20 or 30 or 40 years hence and storytelling. I encourage you to continue this journey and to keep sharing with the world (but particularly your children and extended family). It means a lot to me.
Thanks John! ……For your beautiful words, for being an integral part of my fabulous family, and for being you. I admire and love your positive spirit, your kindheartedness, and your thoughtfulness. You are a gift!
Kelly,That was lovely! Thanks for sharing your journey!Sometimes”tragedy” takes us to amazing places.Veryinspiring! Best of times to you!
Wow Kelly, you truly,deeply moved me!
I have been contemplating the same questions for the past year, as I was feeling lost in my world, lost on my own path and for a long time stayed still in front of the major junction I encountered… Finally, things started to open up for me and that led me to start school and recreate myself, my work, my passions in life and how I express myself in life, what truly moves and motivates me and what legacy , at the end of my life cycle, will I leave behind.
Thank you for the reminder and sharing your stories. I appreciate you very much! Love and big hug from the Sacred mountain ⛰?, Merav
You make my waters flow with your beautiful words touching deep, deep into my spirit work on the land. I sobbed all the way through but not in sadness, in expression of true feeling. Thank you for your continued sharing.❤
Thank you Kelly, for sharing your precious gifts. And, thank your for the four “questions” I will use to guide me as I approach retirement this June.
as always, such inspirational words and insights for one so young but so brave of heart. you are a gifted writer. it was an honor to sail and share these experiences with you, as well as the struggles you endured that aren’t part of these stories. a wise ole sailor once said, “we can’t change the wind, but we can adjust our sails.” its time to adjust the sails!