Yesterday, June 22, would have been our 11th wedding anniversary (though Sandy and I always celebrated our real anniversary as well, the day of our first date and her birthday - July 13th). So to honor the day yesterday, I had my master gardener friend Barb help me pick out a large quantity of flowers to plant in our garden. It will be really beautiful when I get them planted today. And it will help me remember how blessed I am to have had what we had…
“…I have found in you, Sandra, an unexpected teacher (and not the 3rd grade kind). A teacher of what is important in this life. There is an unstoppable compassion in you for other people and, of course, other creatures as well. You put care and concern for others ahead of your own needs, and you do that just because it has to be done, not for praise or reward. You are my rock of love, kindness and powerful, heartfelt emotions. When my Irish cynicism starts getting the better of me, you’re right there with that incredible Scottish smile to set me straight again.
I believe it’s true that to have lived a good life, you must strive to make life better for someone else. I believe that both of us are doing that for each other. And that is part of what makes our love so great.
You and I have shared so much the past seven years, and it has all seemed so easy and right, that I try not to take for granted my good fortune. And that’s what today is all about… to celebrate our love with family and friends, who also help make our good fortune possible. And I look forward to much more with you Sandra… All my love…”
Yesterday, Father’s Day, I drove over the pass to Sandy’s hometown of Ellensburg to spend the day with her parents, as I did on Mother’s Day last month. I didn’t tell them I was coming, as usual, but thought I would make the day even more special by hiking up Manastash Ridge, a popular local hike, before I saw them. Sandy, her father and I made this steep hike last year in April for her dad’s birthday (see April ‘06 archive for photos) and I of course had not been back to the ridge since.
As I hiked the steep trail to the top of the ridge, memories of that special day just over a year ago when we were here came flooding back… Sandy was so strong that day, reaching the top of the ridge long before her dad and I… and I remember my hope and faith being strengthened… knowing she would be alright if she could make this strenuous of a hike. But less than two weeks later we were returning to Stanford for her 2nd surgery.
So yesterday I returned to the ridge by myself…. and called Sandy’s dad from the top to wish him a Happy Father’s day and tell them where I was, and would soon stop by to see them after I hiked back down… and told them part of what I wrote in the logbook at the top… “Father’s Day… hiked in honor of my father-in-law Eric Beardsley, and in memory of his daughter Sandy, the love of my life… who died last August after a courageous fight with cancer… LiveStrong…”
I’ve been going through an especially tough time lately, physically and emotionally… struggling with the pain and loss, missing Sandy more intensely as time passes by… but managing most days to still find something to keep me going, to see the beauty in this world. Usually it’s a small thing that makes me feel Sandy is still with me, makes me smile a little, keep breathing, and get through the day… a wildflower blooming in the garden, a raven on a branch nearby, a robin on the bench in the quiet dusk… the calming sound and flow of the river at the end of our road where I walk the dogs every morning and evening… and what happened today reminded me again that her spirit lives on in many ways, and in many more people…
Today was a very special, moving, emotional, tearful and life-affirming day… I drove the very familiar road north along the Columbia River to the school where Sandy taught. It was the last day assembly and talent show. A year ago Sandy, her parents, our son Cameron and myself were here for the last two days of the school year at Orondo… Sandy’s last days at the school. She died a month and a half later. But her spirit lives on….
At the assembly today, two students gave a special tribute to her. With a photo of Sandy projected on a large screen, Samantha sang a beautiful version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and then Ruby read about her memories of “Ms Beardsley”… especially her wonderful smile, that still makes Ruby smile when she thinks of her. Through my tears I was powerfully reminded about how many kids, and fellow teachers, loved her. And how many lives she touched in such a positive and inspiring way. To see how she has influenced these children, and continues to — their memory of her is still very strong — was overwhelming. I told Samantha and Ruby that Sandy had always loved and been very proud of them — and was especially proud of them today.
After the program, and many hugs later, I went outside to get some fresh air and let the wave of emotion roll so I could go back in and see some of the staff and kids I hadn’t had a chance to. But as I was walking around outside, two little girls — Sandy’s students that I recognized — came up and hugged me. One of them said tearfully, “I miss her so much…”
That was a wave I couldn’t stand up to. All I could say, as I started to lose it, was “Don’t worry, as long as you remember her, she’s still with you…”
Somewhere… over the rainbow…