Go slow, mon.

As my feet slipped into the pinkish sand, I thought, “I’ve been here before.”

And I had.

In 1977 my family, including my Mom and Dad and four brothers, flew to Eleuthera, Bahamas to visit my older sister Karen. She was living there with her then-husband, who was serving in the Navy.

I was sixteen and experienced many firsts on the trip. First flight. First trip to foreign country. First walk on a beach on a body of water other than Lake Erie. And, thanks to Karen, my first Goombay Smash.

I remember my father encouraging the driver of our taxi to go faster on Queens Highway from the airport to my sister’s apartment. The driver told my father that we were now in the Bahamas, where everything goes a bit slower, mon.

We eased into the rhythm of the island, venturing to the Glass Window, where the dark waters of the Atlantic meet the calm, turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea, and walking the beaches near Karen’s home. I found a glass bottle with a message in it on that trip. A couple on a cruise tossed it overboard, hoping to win a contest. I wrote back to them, and although they didn’t win, it provided a great story and memory.

My mother captured this image back then, with me, my dad and my brothers, walking the beach with a stray dog, our backs to the camera, facing the unknown.

Now, forty years later, I walked with two of my brothers and their families in the early mornings on the beaches on the Atlantic, basking in the beautiful sunrises.

As we talked and reconnected, I couldn’t help but think about who I was then, and who I’ve come to be.

At sixteen I couldn’t even imagine what life had in store.

Just as the hot sun cast shadows from our forms on the beach, so too has life. Darkness at the greatest depths, the inconceivable loss of my daughter, then almost as devastating, the death of my only sister.

I wondered what my sixteen-year-old self would have thought if you had told me what I would be forced to face. I wondered if she would have tried to turn her back on the sun, run the other way and literally bury her head in the sand.

I feel so blessed by those who wouldn’t allow that as an answer to the pain.

As I walked those unforgettable beaches once again with my brothers, Jeff and Gordie, I thought about the roles they, along with other family members, have played in moving through life’s challenges.

They’ve been my rocks to the waves of grief, the good-morning texts and the later night chats, pulling me back from the dangerous undertow.

As my husband, Brad, reached for my hand, forcing my thoughts into the present, I grabbed it, squeezed it, and held on tight. It was his idea to come to Eleuthera, as he had experiences in the outer islands as a child too. He used to tell our children of his adventures spearing fish and lobster back in the day. When he emerged from the water with a huge lobster on his spear while on a charter expedition on this trip, tears flowed, thinking back to three little ones mesmerized by his tales.

Nights on this visit were spent around a fire, giggling, enjoying Pina Coladas, (and Goombay Smashes!), sharing stories and learning more about each other’s lives. Recalling memories of the past and dreams for the future. Precious family time with our children, Kyle and Ian, and our nieces and their respective, amazing partners.

The days flew by as we set off on adventures, playing, laughing and discovering as a family.

On one of those last days all together, we took this shot.

All of us on the beach, feet sinking into the familiar sands, the sun shining down on us. Holding tight, facing the future together.

All the while wishing that time would go a bit slower, mon.