DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley and her daughter Claire on a boat in summer

Swimming in the Mediterranean Sea

It was time to jump.  And Claire was scared.  Not just a little bit scared, the way kids can get when they say “I’m scared!” but it’s mostly just nervous excitement.  No – she was legitimately scared.  The waves were actually pretty rough and the boat was rocking significantly. 

“Claire,” I said, taking her face in my hands, “you can do this.  You’re only going to get this one chance.  I know you’re scared but I’ll jump with you.”

Then I took her hand and led her up to the jumping-off point of the boat.  She held tight.  I could see the fear still in her eyes but I could also see that she trusted me.  “You ready?”  I asked her.

She nodded.  I counted, “1, 2, 3, jump!” and we jumped.

The sea was freezing cold.  She came up gasping for air, even though she was wearing a life jacket.  “I want to get out!” she yelled.

“Okay,” I said, “don’t worry.  We’ll just swim around the boat to the ladder.”

She was not happy.  “Do you feel jellyfish on your feet?” she asked, panicked.

“There’s nothing in the water,” I said, “it’s clear and cold.  Don’t worry about that at all.”

She looked a bit calmer, which was good because it was going to take a few minutes to swim to the ladder.  “Baby, stop just for a minute,” I said to her, “and look around.  It’s so beautiful.”

She did.  She held my shoulder tightly, but she turned around and looked at the island rocks that seemed to jet out of the sea and tower miles above our heads.  “Woah,” she said.

It was then that I saw it – a glint in her eyes.  It was that specific look that comes when someone is doing something amazing for the first time. 

We didn’t stay in the water long.  She got out, shivering and crying a little bit, and I wrapped her in a towel and we sat in the shade of the boat.  I told her over and over again how proud I was of her and after a while she smiled at me.

I kept my arms wrapped around her for a long time.  Everyone else got out of the water and eventually we left the cove where we had been swimming. 

Later, as we ate dinner, I asked each of the kids what their favorite part of the day had been.  Claire said, “I’ll go first!” and then said, “my favorite part of the day was jumping off the boat.  It was so fun!”

“Really?” I asked her.

“Well, I was scared, but it was fun!” she said.

I didn’t press it, but I kept thinking – she didn’t like it at all!  She was upset most of the time before, during, and after she swam and I thought I had made a mistake by encouraging her to jump.

But then I remembered that glint in her eyes when she glanced up at the island cliffs while we were swimming.  I thought about how her face looked when I squeezed her tight on the boat afterwards and said, “I’m so proud of you.”

She had done something new and super scary.  She didn’t like it at the time.  But afterwards she felt much differently.

What a perfect metaphor for my life.

It’s probably a great metaphor for anyone’s life.  You know, “anything worth doing will be difficult” or something like that.  But for me, I think it’s magnified.  So many times over the past 18 months, I’ve felt like Claire did right before jumping off the boat.


Walking back into the school where I teach after months away on bereavement leave: terrified.

Having that first meeting with a financial planner, unsure of everything about money: terrified.

Feeling the first kiss with a man who wasn’t Shawn: terrified.

Getting on the plane with three kids to Europe: terrified.

I could go on, but I’ll say this – I didn’t necessarily enjoy any of these firsts.  Like Claire, I remained scared through them, and my fear made it difficult to look up at my surroundings and appreciate that I was finally living.

But when I metaphorically “got back on the boat” and thought back on what I’d done, I usually felt good.  Proud, sometimes.  Other times I just felt relieved that I’d finally done something that felt really scary.

In the moment with Claire on that boat, I wasn’t sure if I should be pressuring her to try something that scared her.  But there was a part of me that knew that it’s the times when I’ve been really scared – terrified, even – and yet still tried something new that I’ve felt really alive.


  • Matthew Herrick

    I say bravo to embracing these adventures with the kids. I find it is so much more meaningful now that the kids have lost their mom and I have lost my wife. Experiences are more real, felt more deeply. Just one lesson we learn from the passing of a loved one, but more so in the case of a parent and spouse.

    • Marjorie

      Yes, in a very very odd twist, I actually think I enjoy my kids more on trips because there’s no one else there and I’m forced to focus on them. And low and behold, I find them pretty awesome!