He liked to come to this spot and swim. It was secluded and just a half hour drive from his condo. It was a hot but cloudy day. The sun stayed behind the clouds most of the time. He had come here after leaving the gym.
It was the last Saturday in January. He thought of how cold it would be in Detroit. That was where he was born and grew up. It was where he met Sherilyn. They met at a mutual friend’s barbecue, immediately hit it off, dated and a year later they tied the knot. They bought a home in a very nice area.
Yesterday was the anniversary of her untimely death. A drunk driver had claimed her life. They had planned to start a family the following year. He was at the office, working late, when he got the call. He rushed to the emergency.
Unfortunately, Sherilyn died before he got there. He didn’t even get to say goodbye. He had no idea how he managed to get home but when he got there, he broke down and cried like a baby. The days leading up to the funeral were tough but he had a lot of support from family, friends, colleagues and neighbors. Somehow, he managed to hold it together at the funeral. After it was over, he wanted to be alone to drown his sorrow and grief. The house felt lonely and empty without Sherilyn.
Following Sherilyn’s death he took some time off work and went for bereavement counseling. It took a long time for him to get to the stage where he wasn’t bitter or angry with the driver or God anymore. Still, it hurt that Sherilyn had been only thirty when she died. They had so many plans. They talked about having kids, traveling and then, retiring and moving to Florida or to another state where they didn’t have to deal with cold winters.
After the funeral, he went through all the stages of grief. For weeks, he avoided family, friends because he didn’t want to talk about his loss. He took a month off from work. He didn’t want to be around people so he took time off from work and just stayed at home where he was surrounded with memories. He was angry with the driver for getting behind the wheel when he was drunk. He was angry with God for allowing Sherilyn to be struck down as she was crossing the intersection. She obeyed the rules of the road and died but the man who broke those rules got away without a scratch.
He was angry for a very long time. He wanted the driver to go to prison for the rest of his life and he stopped going to church. He stopped reading his Bible and praying. There were times when he wanted nothing to do with God and there were times when he lashed out at Him. There were times when he got drunk but that only made the pain worse not to mention a terrible hangover. It took a long time for him to reach the acceptance stage and ironically, he did so with God’s help. God had been there with him through each stage.
Another person who was very instrumental in his recovery was Danica, Sherilyn’s cousin who lived in Seattle. Every weekend she called and talked to him. There were times when he didn’t feel up to talking to her so, she texted him. Sherilyn and she were more like sisters than cousins. Two years ago, Danica spent part of her summer vacation with them and last year, she spent Christmas. The three of them were close. Sherilyn’s death had been devastating for Danica. At the funeral, she had barely managed to read Sherilyn’s favorite Scripture verse before she broke down.
Sherilyn and he had flown to Seattle for Danica’s university graduation. They stayed with Danica and her parents. Danica was thrilled to see them and she and Sherilyn stayed up late the first night they were there, talking. They took lots of photos together and those were what he looked at periodically. Sherilyn looked so happy, standing between Danica and him, smiling with her arms around their waists. There were times when it was hard for him to look at them and weeks went by before he could bring himself to look at them again.
He had stopped going to their favorite haunts and spent most of his time at the beach or at home. Then, two years after Sherilyn’s death, he sold their house, quit his job, packed up and moved to Tampa. He rented an apartment but didn’t look for another job for a while. Then, when he was ready, he searched for jobs online and applied to several. He got one which paid extremely well. He moved out of the apartment and into one which he bought. It was in downtown Tampa and was not far from his office or the beach.
The unit was very spacious 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom with floor to ceiling windows and a patio balcony with a view of passing cruise ships. It was close to Tampa’s Water street, Sparkman’s Warf, Riverwalk, Amalie Arena, the Florida Aquarium, trendy restaurants and bars, shopping, theaters, museums, parks, dog parks, trolley and more. It was a great place to live and he spent most of his time there when he wasn’t at the beach or at work.
It was time to leave the beach. He headed towards the shore. On his way home, he decided that he would stop by Bamboozle and pick up two take out dinners–one for tonight and one for tomorrow because he didn’t feel like cooking. He got the Lemongrass Chicken and Duck Pho.
He pulled into the garage, got out of the car and walked to the entrance. He took the elevator to the 7th floor. He walked down the hallway and when he reached his unit, he was startled to find Danica standing there. She was leaning against the wall. For a moment he thought he was imagining things until she turned her head towards him.
“What are you doing here?”
“Waiting on you.”
“I meant what are you doing here in Tampa?”
“Aren’t you happy to see me?”
“I’m always happy to see you but right now I’m very surprised. Are you here on vacation?”
“No, I’m here to stay.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve moved to Tampa. I need a place to stay until I can find a job. Can I stay here with you?” That was when he noticed the luggage.
“You brought take out? Great! I’m starving.”
He opened his mouth to protest but he closed it again. Instead, he inserted the key in the lock and opened the door. She walked past him, pulling her luggage behind her and he went in and closed the door.
Sources: Very Well Mind; Healthline; Yocket; Zillow