Touched by loss. Empowered through community.

Return to Duck

Monday, July 21, 2014
Posted By: 
Jeannine Love

Earlier this summer I went on an extended road trip to places Aric and I had never been and tried things we had never done together. I called it my “Aric Day” adventure. This past week I went on a very different kind of trip. It was another place we had never gone together, where I tried things we had never done together. But this time, it was a trip Aric knew well, one he had made many times growing up. This summer, I finally got to go to the Outer Banks. This summer, I made it to Duck.

The trip to Duck, NC in the Outer Banks was a family tradition while Aric was growing up. During our time together I often heard stories of adventures on the island and just as often wished to have a chance to go. But, the family trips had ended when Aric graduated high school just a year or two before we started dating. And later, like so many other plans, the idea of returning to Duck was a post-transplant dream at best. Then, earlier this year I received a call from Aric’s mom saying they had decided to return to Duck for a week this summer and she wasinviting me along. Did I want to go?

For some, this might sound like the stuff of nightmares, or at least the beginning of a standup routine. A week-long vacation with my in-laws. A fourteen-hour drive alone in a car with my mother-in-law, both there and back. Revisiting a family vacation spot and tradition that I had never been part of. But, for me, it sounded like a grand adventure with people I love dearly. I had waited seventeen years to make this trip with them. I signed on immediately – I couldn’t wait!

Indeed, this trip is just one in a long list of examples that illustrate the commitment Aric’s family has demonstrated to holding on to me and holding me up, to keeping my relationship with them strong, to continually reinforcing that I will always be able to lean on them and that I will always be part of their family. And, it is not just Aric’s immediate family, but his large extended family as well. They have all embraced me as their own and in doing so have provided me not only with a supportive extended family network of amazing people, but also with an ongoing connection to Aric through people who love him as much as I do and whose memories of him go back much further.

From time to time I attempt to express what it means to me to have such strong love and support from Aric’s family. I recognize how lucky I am, how unique our relationship is, and just how much I rely on them in my grief journey. Yet there never seems to be an adequate way to express my love and my gratitude. They are always happy to hear from me, always appreciate a visit. I am always welcome in their home and in their lives.When I am missing Aric, I know they will understand. When I want to share a memory, I know will always listen and will have their own memories to share with me in return.They support me in my grief and they allow me the honor of supporting them in theirs. Together we create a safe space in which we are able to remember Aric as a whole person—the good and the bad.And, together we do our best to remember and honor Aric’s life and memory while moving forward.

This past week was no exception. Throughout the week, Aric’s family relived their memories of vacations past, sharing some stories I’d never heard and others I knew very well.And, in walking the beach, swimming in the Atlantic, riding Ar’s boogie board, being there with his family, I spent time with a boyhood version of Aric in a way far more tangible than hearing stories or looking at photographs.

At the end of a week filled with memories old and new, a lot of laughs and just a few tears, we walked down the beach together in the dark of the night, down to where the cold surf rolled in over our feet and swirled around our ankles, and each of us took a pinch of Aric’s ashes and released him into the ocean. Afterward, tears streaming down our faces, we clung to each other in a group hug, an instinctive recognition of our mutual love and loss and our continued reliance on one another. The next morning we watched our final North Carolina sunrise together knowingour Aric danced in the waves, swimming once more in the surf he loved. And as the sun rose over the ocean we started another new day together—as a family.


What a beautiful experience. It made me cry thinking of you with his family spending time, learning new things about him, being loved and accepted by all of them. As someone who is not as lucky as you are in dealings with in-laws after losing my spouse, it only intensifies my deep sadness about much the loss of extended family can affect my boys going forward. Many hugs to you and your family. Thank you for sharing your story.

Your blog submission was wonderful! What a beautiful relationship you have with all of Aric's family. It sounds very healthy and I'm glad you were able to enjoy an incredible week with them all. I'm also happy that you have such a strong relationship with them. It's great that you all can express yourselves to each other. You are good role models for us all.

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