2011 Family Traditions Contest Runner-Up: God’s Plan at Emerald Isle

“Family traditions help us define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable and safe in a confusing world” – Author Unknown

Growing up as a child I always looked forward to the last day of school in June as I knew I was leaving in seven days to go to Emerald Isle for one week! It has been a family tradition to go to Emerald Isle every June since I was four years old. My father and mother made sure that no matter what went through during the year we would go on our family vacation. We always kept a calendar on our fridge with the date of the beach and would start in January counting down the weeks, days, hours, minutes that we would be going to the beach. As my brother and I got older we continued to go to the beach with our parents as our annual family vacation never stopped. My brother is now forty one with two children ages nine and fourteen. I am now thirty eight years old with two boys ages fourteen and seventeen. All of our children love going to the Emerald Isle with the family and we have kept all the same traditions that my brother and I shared as kids.

I remember as a kid as soon as my father’s truck hit the “big” bridge the tradition was to all put our hands out the window with the I love you symbol! I could smell the beach air and knew it was going to be a great week at the beach!! I always remember that we would pull over to let my father go ahead of us as he would have to pull into Emerald Isle Realty as soon as we saw the big lifeguard chair with the guy waving at us. Dad would give the address to my mother and she would let my brother and I go find the actual house we were staying in. Riding up and down ocean drive was always so much fun looking for the address. Once we found the “perfect” beach house that my mom and dad had picked for our week at the beach we would pull in and jump out of our vehicles. We ran down to the end of the walkway to see the beautiful ocean. My brother and I were always so excited to see the ocean! As soon as I heard gravel popping I knew my fathers truck was pulling in. We all would run to the front door waiting on my father. The anticipation of my father opening the door at our beach house was over whelming! As soon as we got in the door we would run up the stairs to make our choice of which bedroom was ours! We would split up the duties of unloading, putting sheets on the bed all while our mother headed to Food Lion to get the weeks groceries! As soon as our duties were done we would head straight to the beach for a few hours of fun! My father was an avid fisherman and was up every morning around 5AM to head out on the beach to fish and by the time we got on the beach he never turned us down on a boogie board run in the ocean! Even though he was tired by the time we got on the beach he still jumped the waves only to push us a few times on our boogie boards! My father was the best at helping us catch a wave. He could always pick the biggest wave and we would scurry to get on our boogie boards anticipating the waves arrival! To this day we continue to have breakfast every morning on the patio, watch the sun set nightly at the beach, and enjoy grabbing our flash lights to take our own kids crabbing on the beach at night. Our only nightly outing is to take the kids enjoy going to eat at Flippers restaurant and then heading to Golfin Dolphin. My father was a firm believer in taking turns cooking a meal for our family and enjoying a game of cards, Sorry, Connect Four and then going out to play on the beach. Our week always ended way to soon yet I know we leave with new memories that we can cherish.

God always has a plan in our lives and we never know when our family traditions would change. Emerald Isle has been part of our family since 1978. However our family tradition was about to change but God had a plan. In May 2009 my father began having terrible headaches and vomiting. My father was the type that if he was not working he was fishing or working in his yard. He was so sick he could not lift his head off of his pillow. He was very sick for a week until I finally forced him to go to the doctor. On that very day my world fell apart. The doctor found a lump under his arm pit. He sent my father for a CT scan which showed that my father had a huge tumor in his chest cavity that had to be removed. On May 23, 2009 the tumor was removed and we waited for the news from his surgeon. On May 27, 2009 my father was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma at the age of 58yrs old. Due to his increasing headaches he was admitted and a MRI of his brain. On my 36th birthday my father was told he had a brain tumor on his brain stem that was inoperable. The Oncologist told my father that they were going to try 14 rounds of radiation to see if they could shrink the tumor on his brain stem. I looked at my father and noticed he was counting on his fingers the days. I asked him why he was counting and he said, “I want to make sure that this radiation is not going to interfere with our trip to Emerald Isle.” My father had always made for sure that our family had that one week at the beach and he we all knew how important his family was and that you always need to get away from life’s hustle and bustle to spend an uninterrupted week with your family. I began to cry as I knew that our family vacation meant so much to him.

My father was determined that he was not going to miss our vacation. We got out a calendar and realized that it was going to interfere with his radiation. My father told me that he would skip his last two radiation treatments so we would not miss our trip! I knew in my heart that his radiation doctor was not going to allow him to do that. I told my father that I would see if my brother could possibly call Emerald Isle Realty and move the trip up a week. My father began to lay his head back and I could hear a sigh of relief. That afternoon my brother called Emerald Isle Realty and asked about the house that we had already booked to see if it was available a week later than what we had scheduled and explained the situation. Emerald Isle made a phone call to the owner and they agreed to allow us to bump our vacation up a week so my father could come down!!! Our entire family was so excited that we were still going to get a trip to the beach with my father!!! My mom began to cry as she looked at the calendar to see that it was Father’s Day weekend! As soon as we were able to tell my father he just smiled and told us there was a reason and that GOD had a plan!

It was a long four weeks of radiation but I knew that with my father knowing he was going to the beach he would push himself through. He became weaker and lost all of his hair. But that did not get him down as everyday he went to the calendar and put a big red X over the day and would stand there and pray that God would keep him here so he could go to the beach. The week of our trip was quickly approaching. We took my father to his radiologist who told us that dad had completed his treatment and they would rescan dad when we returned from our trip! My dad had an extra skip in his walk as we left the office. When we got in the truck he told me to pack my bags as we were to going to the beach and have a lot of fun! I don’t think he slept the whole week as he was busy putting the final touches on his fishing rods, checking his fishing box, etc.

The Saturday finally arrived to leave for the beach! Early on that Saturday morning my brother and I met at my parents house to pack up three vehicles up of all of our kids luggage, fishing rods, and my parents luggage. I knew this trip was going to be different as we had never had to pack the vehicles before. In years past our father always had things packed the night before. It took us a while to get my father up and ready and out the door but we managed to get his frail body in the truck for a long ride to Emerald Isle. He still had that grin and was so happy to be heading there to Emerald Isle. After four long hours of riding we finally made the turn at the stoplight where the bridge was. I was following my brother up the bridge and I see the passenger window roll down..at that moment my heart skipped as I saw my fathers frail arm come out the window holding his hands up with the I love you sign! I just smiled knowing that even though he felt awful, was in pain, at that moment he did not care. He was with his family on at the beach!!!

Once we arrived at the beach house we got the family settled in my father told me to go get the fishing rods and rod holders. He explained to my boys that he was going fishing the whole day on Sunday (Fathers Day) and if they wanted to go and learn how to fish this was the time to do it. My boys had spent years digging for sand fleas and running to give the bucket of sand fleas to my dad but had never actually ”learned” how to fish. Now that they were 15 and 13 it was time. However my dad told them that they had to get up at 6am! My boys moaned but knew by looking at my father’s face this was going to be the last chance to fish with him. They sat in the floor and helped my father get prepared for the next day of fishing.

That morning I woke up at 7am and ran to the window. I looked out only to see my father and my boys fishing at the edge of the ocean. I saw my father teaching my boys how to throw a rod into the ocean. Within seconds I saw my father clapping and smiling as my oldest son began reeling in a fish flopping back and forth out of the water. I ran down the steps to see what my son had caught! It was a baby shark! Yet my father was so excited! At lunch I told my father he needed to come up and eat lunch. He looked at me and said, “Just bring me a sandwich down to the tent.” At that time I saw the look in his eyes, no words were spoken, yet I cried all the way to the beach house knowing that he probably would not fish anymore that week. The rest of the day my boys and my father fished and caught a lot of different types of fish! We finally ended the day on the beach around 4pm as my father was feeling weak. We loaded everything up and took him to the beach house. I knew he was exhausted but he asked to sit outside with the boys. I saw him pull out a permanent marker and write on their fishing rod holders….June 21, 2009, Jacob Luck, Fisherman…June 21, 2009, Austin Glisson, Fisherman. My boys were all smiles as my father told them they had earned the new fishing rods and rod holders!! It is a day that my boys will never forget. We enjoyed a nice meal from Flippers that evening and followed with watching my father open up his fathers day presents.

The following morning my mother called me to their room. I went upstairs to see my father laying in the bed weeping. He told me that he was hurting all over and was too weak to even get up. I called in to his Oncologist who told me that my father was probably dehydrated and we needed to increase his pain medication to keep him comfortable. Throughout the following days my father was able to spend time on the porch as well as on the beach. I saw him always talking to the neighbors but I never thought much of it as he was such a friendly person. By Thursday my father was getting to the point he could not get out of the bed. His pain was increasing and his body was getting weaker. It took my mom and brother to get my father up and down the steps as he was so weak but he was determined to be with his grandkids. On that Friday morning I woke to hearing my mother crying. I went downstairs to see her trying to make her breakfast. She looked and me with tears flowing down her cheeks telling me that my father did not have much longer. She told me that we could not stay any longer and we had to get him back home. So I went upstairs to gather all the grandkids and my brother to tell them we made a go ahead and pack up and take pawpaw on home. I don’t think I have ever packed three vehicles that fast nor had I run up and down so many flights of stairs to get things in the vehicles. As we were walking my father to the car he stopped and asked us to walk him over next door. I told him we didn’t have time to as we needed to leave. He looked at me and said, “You may not understand why now but you will one day. “ I just need to hug her one more time?? I was confused but I walked my father over to the neighbors staying next to us. He explained why we were leaving early and even hugged the neighbor and her husband goodbye. As we pulled out of the beach house my father looked at my brother and said , “Do not ever stop coming here as when I leave this earth this is where I will come back too.” As we all cried we drove home. It seemed my father became more distressed and in pain than normal. I realized then that my father had not told us the full extent of his pain, discomfort, and weakness while we were at the beach. I knew then that his days were numbered. We decided to drive my father straight to the hospital with our beach bags still in the truck. My father was admitted due to his pain and we slowly began to see his organs shutting down one by one. A few days later while laying there in the hospital room beside my father I asked him why did he not tell us he was in that much pain while we were there. He told me, “I wanted to be with my family one last time.” Then he closed his eyes….On July 26, 2009 my father went peacefully to be with his Lord and Savior in heaven.

A few weeks later my mom called my brother and I to come over. She was standing at her door anxiously awaiting our arrival. I went in only to see her holding a letter and photo. I read the letter that is written below:

Dear Mrs. Glisson,

I realize that this letter is late, but it is hard for me to express my feelings. I guess I will start from the beginning.

A summer vacation at the last moment. Much needed due to my spirits were at a low. As you know I have been on the national liver transplant list for sometime now. I was not feeling well and we had many disappointments of opportunities of possible transplants. My husband Michael and I needed reconnection with faith and spirit, we have always felt closest to the lord when we are at the beach. To watch the ocean and the soft sounds of the surf are so comforting.

Shortly after arriving ourselves we noticed your family unpacking. I said to Michael, what a large family and it looks like someone loves to fish when we noticed the fishing gear that was being unpacked.

Later that afternoon while sitting on our deck, we heard a voice come over the railing. It was Steve, a man that appeared to have no trouble in the world. Through our initial conversation as you know that was not the truth when Steve shared his story. Shocked by what I heard, I felt an immediate connection with Steve.

I shared my story with Steve as well and it felt good just to talk. Although strange I felt that I had known Steve all my life. I was not feeling well enough to spend alot of time on the beach, so we watched as your family spend the week fishing and playing in the surf. I said to Michael several times throughout the week what a great family, as we enjoyed watching you all have so much fun!

Michael looked forward each morning to see Steve, with a pleasant hello and a small conversation. As the week progressed we noticed that Steve had some great and not so great days, as I can relate to those feelings myself. Friday came as we still had two days left and Steve had come over to say good bye, as he needed to cut the vacation a little short due to not feeling well. It was such a pleasure to have this time with Steve, and one last conversation.

As you were pulling out headed back home, I felt such a great since of loss, yet knowing I had a friend forever. As I watched your vehicles go up the road I cried for a moment hoping everything would be well with you and Steve, that our thoughts and prayers with the both of you on the journey that lied ahead. It was a miracle to meet a person in such a short time who touched us in ways we will never forget.

Steve had sent Michael some samples of product that he was selling at the time. Over the next several weeks Michael was informed of Steves passing. Michael made it a point to wait to tell me when he got home from work. I immediately knew something was wrong when he had a cracking in his voice. We held each other and cried deeply and we were overwhelmed with sorrow for your loss and a passing of a great man.

That evening I heard a voice that said, “I am okay, please do not worry.”

I did not know what to think! Over the next several weeks as I was trying to get my thoughts together so I could send you a card, duke hospital called me. The phone call stated that they had a liver for me and that it was only for me and will not be compatible for anyone else. Throughout the twenty hours waiting for surgery the last few were a blur.

As I waited I prayed and then opened my eyes and heard a voice again saying, “Honey you will be fine”…I then felt an overwhelming sense of peace. It has now been 14 days since my surgery and I am at home recovering well. I feel that I had an angel with me that day of surgery…and I call him “Steve”. I want to say to you and your family that you were all blessed to have Steve in your lives. As for Michael and I Steve will always live in our hearts forever and we will never forget him.

God Bless~ Deborah B.

Dad and Deborah B. at Emerald Isle June 2009

I think my mom, brother and I sat on the couch weeping after reading this letter! My father knew that this lady who was our neighbor at the beach had nine failed liver transplant attempts. Her doctors had told her that she would probably not get another transplant. When my mom spoke with Deborah she told my mother that was one of the reasons her and her husband were at the beach as it was going to probably be her last trip. My father believed otherwise! It also answered my question as to why my father wanted to so desperately tell them goodbye on his last day at the beach.

I feel that our family knows that God put us at the beach house at the time we needed to be. All of this was Gods plan! Being at Emerald Isle was exactly what my father wanted and needed. He wanted that final trip as a family. It is an amazing feeling to know that we were sent to the beach with my sick father at the time that we went. My father knew a lot more than my brother or I did and it just warms my heart to understand Gods purpose.

A year of grieving my family really needed to get away. We all knew where our hearts were and where we wanted to go for our time away. However due to my father passing away so young we knew it was going to be hard on our mother. We really did not have the money to take a big trip to Emerald Isle. However we knew that our father’s spirit will always be at Emerald Isle and were praying that our mother could find some peace and serenity being at Emerald Isle.We knew that nothing meant more to us than making sure our mother and kids could go to the beach. We saved $50.00 a week each and in January 2010 we were able to book our trip for that summer! We knew that our mother wanted to go back to the beach house where my father spent his last “healthy” week at the beach! My brother called crying telling me we had that same house booked!!! When my brother and I got our tax money we were able to pay for the rest of the trip and were excited to tell our mother where we were headed!!

Our drive was quiet but I knew that we were all going through the memories of the past thirty years. As soon as I saw the bridge I think I smiled for the first time in over a year. It was an amazing feeling as I felt my father in me for the first time. My brother drove his car up to the bridge and as I looked out my window I saw his hand come out of the truck. It was the “I LOVE YOU” sign! My boys , mom and I all started to cry and rolled down our windows to show the I love you sign! I cried as I went over the bridge. As soon as I saw the lifeguard stand I turned in. It was funny that for the past thirty years I had not once pulled in to Emerald Isle Realty! I had no idea where to go or what I was doing as my father had always handled that part of the trip. However the Emerald Isle staff was right there to help us out as to what we were to do. We drove over to the house that we had stayed in the previous year. The house looked just like it had two years ago. As I walked out on the porch I could hear laughter and the waves crashing. I went to the edge of the porch to look down only to hear little kids feet running out to see the ocean and smiling that they too had arrived at Emerald Isle. I knew then that my father was in heaven shining down and I knew a new season of tradition had just begun.

Emerald Isle Realty helped us to make my father’s last and final wish come true~Thank you for caring about your customers! It such a great feeling to know that you not only care about what you do but Emerald Isle Realty has a passion about helping families make great memories and continue family traditions at the beach!! We love you all!

– Ashley Glisson Luck

The best lesson we could learn from our grandparents is to cherish every moment…

Jacob with his grandpa learning how to fish June 2009

“What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance. They give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humor, comfort, lessons in life” – Author Unknown

Austin with his grandpa learning how to fish~ June 2009

“A grandfather is someone with silver in his hair and gold in his heart” – Author Unknown

Austin at the age of 4yrs old at Emerald Isle ready to fish with Grandpa

~A Grandpa is someone you never outgrow your need for~

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