“I dropped a tear in the ocean, and whenever they find it I’ll stop loving you, only then.” | Anonymous
Why are we drawn to the Ocean? Is it the salt air or the sound of waves crashing against the shore? Or is it the wonder of its vastness and sight of a boundless world filled with life and mystery? For Derek the ocean was his home as it provided a source of freedom.
Atlantic City was Derek’s favorite place. He loved watching the life of the boardwalk — there were people dancing, eating with friends, going on rides at the carnival, taking pictures, running or quietly sitting on a bench patiently waiting for their next adventure.
We traveled to Atlantic City often — sometimes for a few hours or for a couple of days. Where there was water, Derek wanted to be near it. It was therapeutic for him and I just loved sharing those moments with him. During one of our trips to A.C., an elderly woman approached us asking us about a building that lay at the other side of the beach. As Derek started to explain, he stopped to look at the woman and asked to take a picture of her. She hesitated for a moment but then kindly obliged. He took several pictures and as he put the camera away he just started smiling at her. He asked the woman if she would stay and talk for a bit and over the next hour we stood listening to her story of how she came to America from Austria, moved to Seattle, Washington as she was in an interracial marriage and at the time it was one of the few places that made them feel welcome. She would later divorce this gentleman and raise her two children to New Jersey as a single mother and would work in one of the government buildings at the former World Trade Center. On the day of the 9/11 attacks, a voice told her to take a day off and go to Atlantic City. Now retired, she makes trips to A.C. to mediate. When she finished her story, Derek thanked her and gave her a hug. When he asked for her name, she said that she would give it the next time they met again. Almost knowingly Derek said that it was a date and they would continue the conversation the next time he returned. With one last smile, she blessed us and remarked how beautiful it was to see us finally together and how our love would last through eternity. As she left and moved onto the boardwalk we almost couldn’t believe how quickly she was walking — it looked like she was becoming younger with each step as her body straightened up. When we could no longer see her, Derek took my hand tightly and said “We just met my guardian angel.”
I asked a girlfriend to accompany me to Atlantic City on Sunday as I knew that he would want to be near the ocean again. It would be the first time traveling back there since Derek’s passing however as soon as I arrived it felt like home. All of the memories with Derek poured over me like love.
The morning before I left, my girlfriend and I walked out to the Tropicana, his favorite hotel, and walked out towards the beach. The day was overcast and a little windy. The cold water welcomed me as I walked into it silently releasing my wishes for Derek and a small container with his ashes in it. As if returning a “Thank you” the sun came out and shone brightly over us.
“Maybe Derek will swim to Europe.” my girlfriend said smiling. I jokingly replied that the currents would bring him to Bali — one of the last places he was wanted to travel to because it was so warm. As I looked out toward the horizon, I knew wherever he was going, he was with his guardian angel.