From the moment I first met Shirley we both knew she would die soon. That was the reason I was there. Consequently that was also the reason we never had an unimportant conversation. Every word held weight. Yes, there were many laughs, and seemingly benign topics, but each and every moment knew what the outcome would be.
I was there to help Shirley with her bucket list. It was specific and precise. That was Shirley. She had built a very successful world for herself and her family. She would die on her own terms.
Shirley loved to travel and told me of all the places she visited around the world nothing could match Long Beach Lodge at Cox Bay on Vancouver Island. Nothing.
That’s why after Shirley passed I went to the lodge to hear her voice again.
Sitting here in the Great Room I feel Shirley’s echo in every corner.
This is where she was happiest and it’s like the essence of her joy is embedded in the wood and rocks and the people.
I look out at the waves and know it is exactly what Shirley would have seen.
My first visit here was tentative and unsure. Much like my writing back then. Now it all seems like home. And with that a deep comfort.
I still type on the laptop Shirley bought me. The one she gave me as a parting gift. I helped write her memoir and before she died she wanted to help me write mine. I smile as I type this because Shirley spent her life empowering people and I had the good fortune to be her personal trainer and her friend.
I still think of Long Beach Lodge as her discovery. I’m blessed to have followed her path to this place.
I still drink Blue Buck, the first beer I had in the Great Room. I still stop at the Starbucks in Port Alberni on the drive across the Island. I still order the burger on my last night here. I still take way too many pictures.
I swear the logs on the beach are the same ones I’ve been looking at for the past six years… but the storm and the ridiculous high tide yesterday reminded me that not much of this vista is permanent.
My writing is based on memories. They have taught me to be open to stepping away from the norm.
People say memories are made and memories are shared. Well memories can also be given.
Shirley gave me the memories I’m making today.
All the incredible people at the Long Beach Lodge are carrying on with that tradition.