My wife and I travelled to the North Carolina coast this weekend to attend a memorial service for my sister’s newborn. Despite some details needing to be modified last minute, the service was beautiful. I accompanied a couple of guests’ guitar and vocals with my djembe, my father officiated, friends and family shared how the unfolding of Isaac’s life had touched them and continues to spread. The event itself was very small but also extremely intimate, exactly what we all needed to bring closure to what we’d all experienced.

During a trip to the same beach several months ago, Kelly and Bill had walked out on a large sand bar during low tide and wrote the names of the two sons they would soon meet in the sand. As the tide rose, the sea washed this inscription away, as if picking up each letter written and safely tucking them away as if to lock them away in its memory.

After the music and sharing time came to a close, we all made our way out to the shore line, being sure to time our walking processional to be made at low tide. Each of us carried a single white tulip out onto the powdery sand, waiting for the right moment to release it and symbolically releasing Isaac in our own way.

Low tide on Topsail Island leaves many small pools of ocean water dotting the shore like the spots of a sea turtle. As we walked, we passed two of these pools, shaped as small wings mirroring each other. I chose to place my tulip between these two wings where it would move in the breeze until the return of high tide carried it out into the water.

White tulip in the sand with wings of the Atlantic

Kelly and Bill walked passed the pools through the small breakers, up onto the same sand bar they had inscribed their sons’ names as a dedication to their creator a few months before, this time carrying Isaac’s urn with them. Giving him one last kiss, they placed him on the spot where they first carved his name into the earth. Upon returning, they told us a small family of dolphins broke the surface as they sat Isaac down, as if to greet them. That night, the moon rose larger and more glorious than I had ever seen, illuminating the rising tide that embraced Issac’s urn, releasing him into the same ocean that first embraced his name.

We all returned from the water, rejoicing in the memories and impressions Isaac’s short life will leave with us and anticipating the new experiences Liam will share with us as he grows.

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