Bella didn’t just love the beach. She could never get enough of it.
The sand, the waves, all the birds to chase.
Here she is in her element, during our wedding week 12 years ago:
Her ritual never changed. From the moment Bella caught the scent of salt air, she’d claw her way across the boardwalk, dragging us up and over the dunes with a leash extended as far as it could stretch.
And once that “clink” separated leash from collar, she’d bolt for the water in a flurry of sand, flapping ears and maniacal tail-wagging. Back in her young-gal days, she could jump several feet off the ground to fetch a piece of driftwood or snag a waterlogged tennis ball from the air.
So I never doubted where Bella’s final resting place would be.
Ocean Isle Beach. The west end, where Tubbs Inlet slices it apart from Sunset Beach.
When the tide is really low, the water recedes so far back you can practically wade between the islands. That was always Bella’s favorite time to sprint through tide pools and terrorize seagulls trying to rest.
Yesterday was cold and windy and beautiful. My favorite kind of winter day on the beach. And the tide was really low when we set out to say goodbye to Bella, which I took as a good sign.
The clouds had just started smothering the sun, but it didn’t matter. We walked to the point, separate but together, our little family spread out across a vast expanse of sand and shallow pools.
Sophie darted in and out of the water, scooping up sea foam, pants rolled up above her knees. Lily carefully combed the beach for sand dollar pieces. I followed Marc to the very edge of the sand, head down, tears stinging my eyes.
The wind caught my first scoop of ashes, causing it to splatter onto the wet sand. Which was awful and upsetting. So I shed my boots, rolled up my leggings and waded out to ankle-deep territory. The cold water stung, which made me cry even harder, but finally — gently — I spread a handful of ashes into the ocean. The tide quickly lifted and scattered them.
Marc stayed quietly nearby, hugged me when I most needed it, and spread a handful of ashes. The girls each got a turn too, then scraped little tributes to Bella into the sand after watching their dad carve a heart around the letter B.
By the time we finished, the sun had completely disappeared.
But later, as I walked back down the beach with a soaked Sophie on my back, I turned around and saw this. A glorious sliver of golden sky over the inlet.
And I didn’t feel like crying anymore.
We love you, sweet Bella girl, queen of the waves, sand and seagulls. Rest in peace.