We walked arm in arm down the steep hill, following the old, faded, weather beaten signposts down to the bay. ‘Ill never make it back up this hill Hannah, I can already feel my knees giving out and were only half way down’. Despite the pain in my knees and the worry of trying to get back up the hill to meet the bus on time, I felt we had to go on. The sunshine poured through the overhung branches of tree tunnels, we could hear the sea in the distance, the squawking of the gulls gliding on the air and we felt the gentle breeze cooling us in the heat of the bright, summer afternoon. ‘Of course you can mum, you’re doing great, it will be lovely down there, I’m sure, and ill help you back up’. So, onwards we carefully plodded, her encouragement leading me all the way, her joy and enthusiasm distracting me from the aching in my knees and legs.
I knew she was right and it would all be worth the effort. As we trod the narrowing path it became crumbled underfoot, she reached out her hand to help me balance. The trees spread out before us, like curtains slowly pulling apart to display beneath them a beautiful, old piece of art, by some famous master painter from a time human kind had forgotten. The sun shone down on the deep azure blue of the ocean pool, framed in irregular angles of brightly lit granite rocks. Appearing before us was a small but deep pool of ocean that appeared to be abandoned by time. Its sheer beauty stopped us in our tracks. We stood silent as the afternoon sunshine played tricks with the light and shade, reflecting the cool blue from the sky, the thick deep green from the surrounding woodland and bright iridescent crystals danced upon the water in a completely improvised display. ‘See, I told you it would be special’ she said with a smug smile on her face.
An elderly man was calling his dog back from its swim in the pool. Catching the dog and putting its lead back on, the dog shook its body, soaking the man in protest. ‘He’s very old, but very friendly’ he said as he pulled the wet, soggy animal past us and Hannah reached out her hand to pat him, with an ‘awwwww’. She just could never resist reaching out to any furry creature, no matter how soggy and aged. ‘Come on you, better get you dried off’ he smiled wishing us a good day, then he had gone, leaving just the two of us, standing looking out to sea, admiring the view, feeling glad we had continued with the steep decline down to this lovely little bay.
We headed closer to the water noticing a newly placed sign informing visitors of the special scientific interest in the area. An importantly rare variety of seaweed grew beneath the shallow rock pools hidden behind a large shaded area of granite. We watched the gentle movements of the weed as the waves softly stirred the striking viridian green and cerulean blue. The magical mix of colour and movement beneath the gentle waves conjured stories of tiny mythical sea beings making their homes in the thick undergrowth. Their daily tasks to go out each day to clean and polish the surface of the ocean, making it shine and glisten, attracting new life, encouraging growth and release gentle puffs of clean, pure air carrying the scent of the sea to give healing and the purest of blessings to all that breathed its magic.
We found two perfectly shaped lumps of granite to perch ourselves upon, sitting a while, sharing a cool drink of bottled spring water and stories of these magical beings who worked so hard to make this place so beautiful, clean and pure. ‘Hey mum, would you mind if I went exploring over there while you sit and enjoy the peace a while’, scanning the area she pointed to as a mother, thinking first of her safety, assessing the area for any danger as mothers always do, thinking it through carefully, trying not to restrict her freedom and desire to learn from exploring this amazing place she had bought us to ‘as long as you are very careful Hannah, keep to the flat rocks on the middle level, don’t climb any higher than the railed walkway, and you must promise to come back when I call you’. Her face lit up in that infectious smile of hers, her eyes sparkling with that magical glint of hope at finding hidden treasure on a deserted island, never before explored, magic waiting to be discovered. ‘Remember we have to be back on that bus or we’re going to be stuck here and we still have that hill to climb up with my wobbly legs’. With a great big smile on her face, a spring in her step off she went with a ‘Yeeeey, ill be careful mum’.
I watched her as she skipped off up the hill in her old faded jeans, baggy, well worn black t-shirt with a bright pink cat on the front and her bright new looking baseball boots. Nothing ever stayed new looking for long on Hannah. She was a very sensible girl, though longed to explore and loved nature with such passion. She was in her element here, this small hidden cove by the sea on a sunny afternoon in Devon. With promises of ice cream when we made it back to the town, I knew she would be careful, I knew I had to let her go and enjoy that freedom every child desires, trust her that she would be responsible and come back when she was called.
Gracefully pulling herself up the steep stepped, granite mountain, she made it to the middle level where it was flat. She turned and waved as she set off on her little adventure. I began to relax after the long walk down to the bay, the tightness in my legs and ache in my back became less of a distraction, my attention now focused more on the natural beauty which surrounded me and the joy shared with the best friend I could ever wish to spend this moment with, my daughter, my little Hannah Bear. Two or three years ago I would have been climbing up there with her, until this illness struck me, taking away so much of my mobility and so much of my confidence for fear of falling, as I did so often. I so wished I could have climbed with her, been there to take care of her every step of the way, holding her hand to steady her on those rocks, but I had to let her go on alone, just watching her from my granite armchair on the warm sand, being there for her to come back to always. At the tender age of just 12 years old, I would never want to hold her back. Her life was still so new with so much ahead of her to discover, so much to explore, so many lessons to learn. Loving someone so much often means letting them go on to explore for themselves, allow them the freedom to learn, yet constantly reminding our little ones how much we love them and always welcome them back into our arms no matter what. So I waited and rested for what seemed like hours without her by my side.
‘Look mum’ came an excited cry from the far side of the bay, ‘the views are amazing up here mum’. There she appeared, glowing with energy as bright as that pink cat on the front of her t shirt. She sat cross legged under a stone arch cut into the wall of dark rock. Her voice echoed across the bay with a ring of excitement that although I couldn’t see it from so far away, I could hear that huge smile on her face and laughter as she repeated ‘OOOMMMM, OOMMMMMM, OM’ making fun of me attempting yoga. Laughing, I shouted back ‘five minutes and you have to start making your way back to me so we can walk back into town and still have time for ice creams’. She must have forgotten the promise of ice cream ‘Ooooh yeah, on my way now’. Carefully reaching up to standing and stepping behind the arch in the rock, holding on tight, she appeared the other side ready to start her trek back to me. ‘Don’t rush, take your time and watch your footing, keep a firm hold on those rocks to help you back’ I cautiously called out my instructions. Most of the journey back she bounced down those lumps of granite on her bum, as if they were made of cushions rather than sharp, heavy rocks, sliding down the steep ones letting out a giggly ‘ouch’ on every landing. As she got closer I saw the state of her jeans and baseball boots, covered in sand and damp where she walked without a care through the warm pools of sea water settled in the deep dents of the lower rocks. Her journey back down took a lot less time than it did climbing up, though a lot less graceful, she made it safely back to my side. Hot and breathless, giving me a huge hug, she started to describe the views from where she had been sitting under the arch which was sheltered from the hot sun. ‘I really don’t want to go back, I love this place, I hope we come back again soon, this is my special place, I love it, thanks for coming down here with me mum’ she smiled. Hugging her back ‘thanks to you for finding this place’ I said. We made it back up the hill to the bus in time, the bus was there waiting at the stop. We just had enough time to pop into a fancy little seaside gift shop selling handmade fudge and chocolates. An agreed compromise to the promised ice cream, which wouldn’t be allowed on the bus, we stepped aboard and took our seats, heading back to the hotel where I reminded her I was certain ice cream would be on the menu for desert that evening.
It was a place and time we would never forget. We often talked about our day in this magical little bay and how we would one day go back there. How we hoped it would never change, maybe next time I would be well enough to climb up those rocks with Hannah and sit a while together in that sheltered arch on the far side of the bay, overlooking the ocean pool, watching the sun dance on the water and see those beautiful rare plants underneath the clear, cool water, moving to the breath of the tide. One day we would go back there together, mother and daughter, best friends forever.
Yet here I sit at your bedside knowing that time has come when once again I have to let you go ahead alone. I understand you need to leave me now and be free from this room that has held you for almost a year of your young life. Machines keep the blood flowing around your body, the constant bleeping of the monitors continuously watched by nurses and recorded by doctors to be discussed at their meetings on deciding what to do next, your breath artificially pumped from a ventilation machine. ‘You have fought this for so long now Hannah, you tried so hard to fight this didn’t you’, she nods her head in agreement, and her eyes half open, still fighting to stay conscious. ‘You are tired now aren’t you’ she nods again and closes her eyes. I gently stroke her soft head where once there had been a mass of wild, long brown hair. ‘Remember our special place Hannah, remember our day in Devon where you found that beautiful hidden away bay, where we sat and watched the sun dance on the water, where you climbed those rocks and I kept telling you to hold on tight, to hold onto the rocks and come back when I called you’. A faint hint of a smile appeared on her lips and with all her might, once again she finds enough energy to nod her head in a ‘yes’, of course she remembers. ‘You must go to that place now Hannah, go to the water’s edge, feel the waves tickle your feet and the sunlight on your face, listen to the gulls squawk and the waves gently break on the smooth, soft sand. ‘I know you cant come back when I call you this time’. I hold her small warm hand tightly wishing I didn’t have to let her go alone, I wish I could go with her, to guide her, to comfort her on her journey, but I know that is not possible now. ‘Go Hannah, go to that beautiful place and wait for me there’. Without a struggle, without a gasp to hold on any longer, I kiss her hand until I can hold it again. ‘You know I love you Hannah bear, never forget that, never forget the joy we shared, I thank you for being part of my life while you were able to be such a beautiful part of it, Goodnight Hannah bear, love you so much, goodnight’.