Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Day 485: Greater than through love and support: Journey with the Cape Fear Heart Walk and Adam Freeman

My blog is turning into three categories of entries: workouts and progress, experiences, and gifts. All of these entries are about this journey and that is what this blog is supposed to be: a recording, an opportunity to share this change, reform, challenge, joyful venture, whatever it is, this path that I have been walking on for 485 days (that is an extension of a path I began 22 years prior and one that was first cast on a map for me 44 years ago).

I say this because sometimes when I have days like today It may seem silly to relate it to this "journey" of the changes in my size and health..but I go back to my deep understanding that I am a three fold being "mental, spiritual, and physical"...and part of the "experiences", part of the "events" I have been have lately or in the last year, have occurred because the "physical" aspect of the triad that makes me me has been possible. I have been present and ready for it, them, whatever to happen.

About 5 years ago I met a woman named Jean Beasley. I had never heard her name until it was presented at a committee meeting of faculty concerning nominees for the Albert Schweitzer Honors Scholar Award that my office gives in collaboration with the Library every year to recognize someone in the cape fear region who exemplifies the work of Dr. Albert Schweitzer.  My director had and shared her story and the amazing work that she did rescuing turtles and rehabilitating them. The more we all learned, the decision came very quickly that she would be that year's recipient.

The award is an amazing honor and recognition, but it asks the recipient to speak to our first year honors scholars class as well. Jean was only too willing. My job in all of this is to find a piece of art that we can give the person (it is better than a plaque and much more in keeping with Albert Schweitzer and his love and support of art), and I do the promotional materials, press releases etc. I found a wealth of information on Animal planet and a distinguished award she had won, but like most of our recipients, she was about the work and was humble, so not a lot of details and at the time, not a lot of pictures. But she and I corresponed and it was a delight to go back and forth with her by mail and the occassional call.

On the day of the award, in walked this, and I am not trying to be cute when i say this "smile with a purpose" into King hall. Jean was a woman who resembles in many ways my own mother in stature and demeanor. She has an aura of peace about her and a smile that can and does light up the room. She hugged me before I think I got my name out, because she already knew me. She was delightful.
Now, my honors students at UNCW are amazing, but I could see a few faces that had 'what is this woman gonna tell us" looks..particularly with Jean's white hair and very sweet disposition.

It was not three seconds at the podium, as her PPT went up on the screen and a giant picture of the earth encircled her before this group of venerable 18 years old that Jean literally captivated them. She gave a talk about the connection between those turtles and our earth and the viabitilty and sustainability of our earth being predicted by the very care of those ancient and wise animals. This captivating smile that had walked in the room still beamed, but her beacon was a message of truth, understanding, fact, reason, and SOLUTIONS. She challenged those students to be involved. To be active. To understand what the impacts were...TO CARE! and by the end of her lecture they were on their feet. And trust me, it was not just those students, it was me and everyone there.

To this day those that I still am in touch with from that class remember her and remember that moment. Now, I don't want to be ungentlemanly, but this from a woman who has surpassed her 70th year and continues....

So that was our meeting and to this day she and I have kept up with each other on Facebook. It has been one of my greatest blessings to have her on my "journey", to hear from her, to see a little of what she was doing and the thrill when she clicks she "likes" something...cause there are some who when they do that...well, it means a lot!

But, I have not been the hospital like I wanted to. I have not been to a release. A large part of that was wrapped up in not being able to. Literally. No matter how active I was when I was larger, I was not good about doing things i thought would be "physical" and I would make excuses.  Not today. Today, the new life that I have been "released" into allowed me to do something I have been dreaming about for a very long time.

Back at Christmas my director and my friend gave me and Michael one of the most special gifts I have ever been adoptee named Chase. Chase is an amazing sea turtle who was rescued and I am his adopted Father. Kate, my director, gave a donation, and in the mail came his adoption papers, picture and all sorts of information about Chase. I have had his picture on my wall and I literally pray for him everyday. (by the way, if you are EVER stumped for a present for me...well, an adopted turtle is just fine..thank you very much!).
Anyway, as I said, Jean follows my facebook and when she saw the commissioning of the Gravely, a beautiful turtle was rescued about that time and they name him "Gravely" in honor of the amazing crew and how cool to name this survivor, who overcame so much after the Admiral who set the standard and overcame all the barriers that allowed for African American's to serve as Admirals in the Navy!

So Saturday, I got an amazing message from Jean inviting me to come for the release of Chase and me and Louise McColl, who was the chair of the commissioning of the Gravely, to come for the release of Gravely. I was on top of the world! Not only because after all this time I was finally going to meet Chase, I was finally going to see a large turtle, see the hospital in person, and see Jean in person again, but also, I knew that physically I could go up for the release and enjoy the day! I was on top of the world!

Louise and I headed out this morning and it was a gorgeous day and a perfect drive up to Topsail. I had been told the night before that Chase was not going to be released because he needed a little more care, but we were going to join Gravely and release him. I was not at all disappointed because what this meant was I got to see Chase today and be with him in September when he is released and then be there to walk with Gravely today and experience this for the first time.

We met Gravely almost immediately and he was amazing. So calm and ready for sea. Majestic, beautiful, noble. The opening ceremony was so special. The escorts for the turtles were gathered at the hospital and Jean stood on a little stool. In tears of "release" of her own she shared the joy of the new building that would be coming in August (they hope), down the street, that was another milestone from the day when it all started with a bucket and a flashlight and a desire to make a difference. But the tears came because in this smaller, un-air conditioned space, you can hear the turtles breathe, she said. She never wanted to loose that sound. It was so very moving, particularly when she announced that today they would release 25 turtles back to their homes and this would mark over 300 for the facility since it opened! thanks be!
Jean called out each turtle, told of its history and success and named the escorts and we were named to go with honor...a huge huge honor...never ever to be taken for granted.
When gravely was put in the truck, he was covered with wet towels and the more experienced folks showed me how to pat him to keep him calm, explaining that he reponded to that patting and back scratches and like it. I could feel him underneath me, at ease. He was so calm. He knew and I knew he knew. It was awesome riding with him. this amazing teacher, beth, rode with us. She knew and knows a lot about all this and I listened to her intently. So many folks in all of this who care so deeply. I was with and surrounded by so much love. God was so rich and powerful in this place. It was powerful.

We got to the beach and there were literally hundreds on both sides. Lots of kids everywhere.
When they were ready for us..they turned to me and said "you can carry him"....I was blown away...but I moved like in a trance and followed Dr. Obrien's instruction on how to pick him up. The underskin was so thick..but supple. I was afraid to hurt Gravely, but the doc said he was ok. Gravely flapped and slapped with excitement..not anger. There was no anger..I was carrying pure, unadulteraded joy. Right when they asked me to do this I handed my camera to a complete stranger and said, "I don't know if you can..but take a picture if you will". She took a ton and these are some of the best moments of my life. the best is seeing what I know was a smile on Gravely's face.

When we got way into the water and put him down and let go, he turned his body from one side to another and was off like a shot..he was home...where he belonged. I shook for 20 minutes out of complete and total joy and gratitude. I think I inappropriately kissed a few folks..hell, I don't care. It was amazing.

Louise and all of us stood there and watched as they took them all to the was amazing.
Afterwards, when we got back to the hospital, Jean took me inside and I finally met Chase. chase came over to me and i used what I learned and rubbed his back and scratched him....he turned and brought that beautiful head out of the water. Jean says that when a turtle looks into your eyes they see your soul.I know he saw mine...I felt it. I could have stayed there..well..I could have stayed there.

I am grateful to have gone up there with Louise. The Gravely was an experience of a lifetime and this turtle will prosper as the Admiral did..overcoming, living, becoming, and sailing into a legacy of wonder.

I owe so much, as do so many to Jean..but was just magic. I cannot wait till September.
But, none of this would have happened, I could not have carried gravely, lasted in that heat, been present in Mind, Body, and Spirit, without this journey!

I thank God! As Jean said, The God of the Universe!

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