Sun, Sand and . . . Blizzards

Fall quietly arrived in Virginia while we were on vacation. We are home now, surrounded by colorful leaves and all things pumpkin. Our daughter held down the fort while we were away and confessed that she finally turned on the heat. We were glad for that warmth when we arrived home.

The photo above was taken in Little Sarasota Bay on the morning of our last day of vacation. Tropical Storm Nestor had blown through  overnight, and was just making its exit during my morning walk. The rain had ended, but it was quite blustery and overcast. If you look toward the opposite shoreline, you will see that the ocean was still churned up with white caps in the outer bay. But the shallow waters and mangroves within the inner bay were protected. I was happy to be safe onshore.

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Blossoms and Beaches

This was a relaxing time away. We found time to meet up with friends and relatives, but also set aside time to just relax and explore. One of the highlights of our week was a visit to Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. We discovered an amazing exhibit on the Blossoms of Asia, which is a stunning collection of colorful orchids.

On the day of our visit, Selby was launching their annual fall concert series. We grabbed a couple of chairs and enjoyed our lunch while listening to Big Band tunes beneath a huge Banyan tree. Relaxation at its finest! 😎

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On our last full day of in Florida, we took a day trip to Sanibel Island. We hadn’t visited Sanibel since Hurricane Charley tore the tiny island to pieces. It had been our favorite vacation spot as newlyweds, and again as a family after the kids had outgrown Orlando’s theme parks. We have many happy memories of our days on Bowman’s Beach, swimming, snorkeling and shelling. I remember feeling heartbroken as I watched news footage after the devastating hurricane.

Sanibel has changed a lot over the past 15 years, but some things have remained the same. The Gulf water is warm and inviting, seashells are abundant, and the Dairy Queen still serves Blizzards. We sampled them all, and my heart was full as we drove back over the causeway. 

Truthfully, I wasn’t sure what to expect when we arrived. Hearing about the massive damage, I thought it would be unrecognizable.  But in the face of adversity,  Sanibel not only survived, but thrived in the aftermath of Hurricane Charley.  With determination and compassion, neighbors and snowbirds alike worked together to restore and rebuild their island paradise into what it is today.

I’ll be back, sweet Sanibel!

The Gift of Friendship

Random Reminders

We’ve all lost someone we love. Family. Friends. Pets. And along with each loss there will always be random reminders. Songs, sayings, or objects pop up now and then to call attention to their absence.

For me, today’s random reminder was a Chiquita Banana sticker.

Just before Christmas I lost a dear friend. He was a senior member of our church, and someone I admired for his ability to always make me smile.

Calvin came by the church every week to help prepare the sanctuary for Sunday worship. He always stopped by my office for a chat and a snack, and now I am missing my friend.

After Calvin passed away, I learned that at one time he collected Chiquita Banana stickers. He stuck them on the side of a cabinet door in his kitchen — dozens of them! It was a quirky memory that made me laugh. Now I will have a yet another reminder of that special friendship whenever I peel a banana.

Friends are Gifts from God

When I was asked to speak at Calvin’s memorial service, that was a first for me. Although it was an emotional day, I managed to share my thoughts and hold my emotions in check. I imagined Calvin sitting in the congregation, and that did the trick. He was an amazing storyteller, and I tried to recall some of his finest moments. This was my closing paragraph:

I am always amazed by the wonderful people that the Lord continues to place in my path here at this little church, and I am so grateful that Calvin was one of them. His friendship has been one of God’s many blessings in my life and I will treasure it always.

In addition to the friends I have made through my church, my life has been enriched by the friendships I have made from childhood until present day. Yes, I’ve lost touch with some of them, but I still carry their memories and stories in my heart. They are part of who I am. There are other friends who have become as close to me as my own family members. My life would feel incomplete without them.

And I have room for many more.

In Loving Memory
Calvin James McGehee, Jr.

August 3, 1936 — December 22, 2018