Carolyn Sanders thought these thoughts out loud to her ancestors, whether or not they were listening, out there,
out there in the ether.
What if dying were as simple as lying on my back floating with the sun beaming down on my face and all my exposed and unexposed self floating in the saltwater the warm Gulf Stream currents of Earle Road Beach on a calm summer day, the sort of day where no one is really sailing much because there really is but the slightest of winds a 5-mile-per-hour breeze and the water is cooling and the gold heat, the gold light evenly coats every surface especially where I sense it most in my face eyes closed and toes, feet upturned in the water which is dark around me not clear to the bottom like in Caribbean islands but a Northern shore water, which is famous for the unknowns that lurk below maybe crabs just living there not happy at all to have my feet or anyone's feet trod on them without warning. Or rocks or fish schools or swirling entangling seaweed piled in unexpected places.
No need to stand on sand.
No need to be vertical any longer.
Grandmothers and grandfathers asked her why she wanted to die. She replied silently, eyes still closed, "Oh, but I have no interest in dying." Then she thought more thoughts, into the ether, which then entered her very self:
Earle Road is what I take into this day. I lie back somewhere anywhere on the day I am dying, or perhaps I will sit up, in meditation repose, as I do each day, and close my eyes and know that I am floating on those dark waves of Cape Cod with their chill that dissipates as time passes in the water and the body embraces the cold and assumes the cold until it is no longer cold at all but part of my body itself, my body with my face up, neck lying flat against the gently billowing waves as they push up, drop down, push up once more, drop back, push up and up and on my eyelids I feel the beautiful burn of the late summer sun, stripping me bare, illuminating every single heretofore hidden cell, each atomic particle on my skin's surface, utterly friendly light penetrating through to the cells below and below and below and throughout my human frame, my tall and long human self, feet to calves and knees and torso shoulders neck, into bones, beyond edges of body hairs; the back of my neck not even trying to stay afloat but holding what is left, self itself, steady in the breathing ocean waves, traveling nowhere except out to a permanent sea of nothing and everything. Held. Forever gone. In the waters, somewhere, floating, off Earle Road Beach.
"Blessed be the memory that speaks of a beachlike death," said Carolyn. And she meant it.
Later, in the evening, Carolyn Sanders made a colossal salad for supper. It contained lettuce the color of kelp; alfalfa sprouts in chartreuse shades of waving seaweed; lanky, long scallions with their tips intact, sticking out like dune grass on the shoreline; sun-ripened tomatoes falling open, wet, at the slice of her knife; tiny, delicate pasta shells, al dente; pink and tan tuna-fish. She drizzled her salad with water, then glistening, golden oil, and a sprinkling of wine vinegar the exact color of red algae. Her creation was almost ready.
Carolyn breathed in deeply, twisted the lid off a small jar, and pinched her thumb and forefinger together tightly, with love. As she emptied her lungs, pacing her exhalation with deliberate finality, she pushed out all that remained of air, and dropped a slender fingerful of salt, grain by grain, across the landscape.
Within minutes, loved ones—her family—took their places at the table of the summer cottage.
Outside, fireflies blinked and drifted up into the air, lifting up, up into the night, even as waves sounded their lap, lap, lapping in relentless rhythm upon the shore.